Heather D. Flowe, PhD
Introducing a new blog: Remembering Rape
Why this blog?
When Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court, many people took this to mean that this proves his innocence. In cases I have worked on around the world, this reaction is typical. 'Not guilty' verdicts (and Supreme Court confirmations) somehow indicate that the accused is innocent and that the complainant (the “accuser”) is culpable. It doesn't. In a rape trial, NG means that the charges could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
The public reaction following Kavanaugh was also an indictment against the accuracy of Ford’s memory of the attack, with some maintaining that she was attacked, but mistaken about who did it. Others said she deliberately made it up or imagined it all.
I am concerned about the backlash against victims that will ensue following this public controversy that played out in the media around the world. What implications will it have for rape complainants in the courtroom, or for victims who are unsure about whether to report rape to the police? Or for the recovery of victims who will not report and blame themselves? In actuality, there is quite a lot of research that speaks to the issues raised in the media recently about remembering rape. Out of these concerns, I have decided to write a series of blogs to talk about the research that is applying the science of memory to the context of rape.
I am also persuaded by Jessica Eaton (@Jessicae13Eaton) and others who have argued that researchers should try to share their research beyond academic journal pay walls. We owe it to our research participants, the public bodies that funded us, victims and survivors, and society at large. As much as possible, I publish my work in open access journals, and I applaud and thank the ESRC and other organisations that provide the funding to make this possible. Still, most research that is done is not funded, and there is no funding available to publish the findings open access.
I also sympathise with the legal professionals. How can they make a valid decision about a case where their client is likely going to be impugned by a psychology expert if they cannot access the literature? I also sympathise with academics who are already working beyond their capacity to get the job done. They don't have the time or know-how to disseminate their work more broadly. We need to do more at institutional levels to solve this problem and enable us to share our work with the public.
There's more that motivates me to blog about this: My research on rape has been funded by public and other bodies, such as the ESRC, the British Academy, the Wellcome Trust, Alcohol Research UK, among others. I am the product of public universities, where I received training from outstanding scientists. The National Science Foundation, which is funded by public dollars, made my graduate study possible via an NSF Fellowship Award and the UC Office of the President awarded me a Faculty Fellowship once I was graduated with my PhD. Prior to this, the State of California awarded me grants that enabled me to obtain a batchelors degree. Neither of my parents went to college; I couldn't have succeeded otherwise. All that I know was made possible by public universities and public funding. I am paying it forward. I hope you find the blog useful.
Comments? Don’t hesitate to get into touch.