The age old question would you rather be rich or famous is up for debate again in the public theater and yet again it looks like being wealthy with anonymity, say being an unknown Porta Potty millionaire, is winning out over being rich and famous.
The latest “celebrity” to become ensnared as the resident lab rat in this debate is Amanda Bynes, whose very public “fall from grace” is being played out right in front of our eyes through social media keeping in line with other now infamous breakdowns by her contemporaries such as Britney Spears and Lindsey Lohan.
However, unlike her contemporaries the Amanda Bynes saga has taken a different and unexpected turn in that she has alleged that she was sexual assaulted by an NYPD police officer the day before and during her recent arrest for alleged pot possession.
According to statements tweeted by Ms Bynes, the officer who was involved in her arrest for alleged pot possession in which she claims he proceeded to “slap her vagina” was also involved in an undisclosed incident of sexual harassment the night prior.
The NYPD have followed up with her claim with a rather hasty (in my opinion) internal investigation stating that they’ve found no evidence corroborating her claim that she was sexually harassed by releasing this statement through an Internal Affairs representative “A credible civilian witness who was with the officers throughout told investigators that no one touched Ms. Bynes inappropriately or otherwise engaged in misconduct at any time”.
This response is no surprise and it speaks to the power imbalance that exists between law enforcement and the public. We are expected to take them on their word because the police would never lie, right?
Speculation aside, we will probably never know if the NYPD or Amanda Bynes is lying. However, what is of concern is that at the intersection of this weird twist in Amanda Bynes seemingly very public breakdown is the historical intersections of a woman making a sexual harassment/assault claim and the validity of that claim being diminished or not taken seriously within the public arena due to perceptions about her character or past sexual history.
It is for this very reason that rape shield laws were created, to protect women from victim blaming and character assassination.
Men and women alike took to Twitter downplaying Amanda’s claims and instead of questioning the police department’s actions they instead spoke about Amanda Bynes behaviour. Specifically, they referenced a tweet she sent to hip-hop superstar Drake in which she stated that she wanted him to “murder her pussy” using this message as justification for their disbelief of her claim of sexual harassment/assault from an officer in the NYPD.
“Amanda Bynes is claiming sexual harassment, saying a police officer “slapped my vagina”. What would she charge Drake with if he murdered it?”
“It’s prolly fat” ( her vagina)
“She prefers it murdered”
This response speaks to a cultural sexism and misogyny so pervasive that it is internalised by men and women alike resulting in a response that says that if you’re a woman your character and sexual history will be brought into question if you make a statement that you have been raped, sexually harassed or sexually assaulted. In such an environment a woman would have to be a virgin ( a preference of a patriarchal culture) to even possibly receive some support instead of the victim blaming that is the cultural norm. However, having said that I place much stress on the word possibly.
This vitrolic environment is the stuff that creates a culture of silence of which RAINN (Rape Abuse Incest National Network) states that 54% of sexual assaults go unreported.
This is a staggering statistic especially in a country where 1 out of every 6 American women will be a victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape).
The only thing scarier is the unknown statistics that a culture of silence enforces, keeping us from the truth of how deep this predatory culture of violence against women really is and its victims from coming forward.
The question we need to ask ourselves is if a figure as public and polarising as Amanda Bynes has her character and actions laughed off or questioned when making a claim of sexual harassment then how vulnerable are those women who have no power or voice?
It is a question we should all ponder for in the thirty minutes it took me to write this piece an estimated 15 women were sexually assaulted of which half MIGHT come forward.
When a public figure such as Amanda Bynes is prosecuted in the court of public opinion it reinforces the message to women that if they’re raped, sexually harassed, or violated in any way they should think twice before coming forward and if they do, be prepared to endure victim blaming and have your character and past sexual activity scrutinized.
In a culture like that it is no wonder that women don’t come forward and that 97% of rapists never see a day in jail.