English transcript of Ashley’s video message to dean Willem Elias

A special thanks to Annelien for translating this message!

Dear Mister Elias.

I’m quickly going to reply to what you said in the newspaper.

First off, I’m replying, in particular, to correct you. You’re dean of Psychology. A dean who replies like that about rape victims.

Yes, I have to suppress my anger. I’m a graduated experimental psychologist, I didn’t want to become a clinical psychologist. But apparently, I have more empathy as a clinical psychologist than you.  Which is quite funny. I suspect that you’re not a real psychologist, because real psychologists, who are fully committed to their patient or who are really interested in people and their psychological mindset, would never say that.

So. I’m a graduate in experimental psychology, and now i’m doing an extra Master’s degree in statistical data analysis. I’m also a rape victim. and just like this woman, i’ve also filed a report almost three years later. And this while I saw myself as one of the tougher women, back then. at that age, at 21, i saw myself as a woman who stood up for her rights, more than other women, because there are a lot of misconceptions and stereotypes and cultural traditions, that still limit women like, the wage gap, going out in Overpoort and so on, there are still a lot of gender roles, a lot of women still grow up with that, and don’t realise they’re being stereotyped. So, I was that way (more aware of our rights) when I was 21 and now, I’m definitely like that. I’ll just quickly explain how it’s possible that a woman waits 3 years to report her rape.

First of all, I was raped by my boyfriend. I don’t know which is worse, being raped by a stranger or your boyfriend but I do know that the first friend I told, didn’t really believe I could be raped by my boyfriend. That’s a very typical image of marital rape, rape in relationships: that doesn’t exist! It does exist! 80% of rapes is commited by an acquaintance. That doesn’t have to mean your husband or your boyfriend, but an acquaintance nonetheless. so, yeah, I’ve been raped, I fought really hard, but my boyfriend was just stronger, and the first friend, the first person I told, just said ‘Huh? But you’re in a relationship?’

When you hear that, as a victim of rape, it’s very painful, I can already tell you. but it’s not just painful, it also makes you think. None of my friends, of the few i dared admit this to, because that’s also hard, sometimes I waited for months to tell friends, because I felt ashamed, because i thought ‘Maybe I didn’t give him enough sex in the relationship, so maybe it’s my fault’, and I’ve thought that for a very long time , maybe it’s my fault, although, the fact that I didn’t give him a lot of sex, that wasn’t my fault, that was his fault, because he flirted with other girls, and that took away my trust , and if my trust is gone, well then, I can’t have sex. End of discussion.

Women are more complicated than men when it comes to sex. There’s a bit more to it, psychologically. Not for all women of course and not all men are cavemen who only think with their penis. That I do get. But for me, I need to be able to trust the man 100% before I can really feel like having sex. So when he flirted with and dated girls behind my back,  well…  sorry about that… umm… Those things made my libido quite low. So, he raped me. Some people might say ‘Well, he was drunk’. He lost his, how do you say this, he lost control. ‘It’s okay if he’s drunk. He didn’t know what he was doing.’ and to those people i say it’s all bullshit. Or else you’d have to excuse traffic accidents caused by drunk drivers as well. Which I don’t think is going to happen. Alcohol does make you looser but you’re still responsible. You can be drunk and responsible at the same time.  and if your girlfriend says no, if your girlfriend yells, if your girlfriend tries to get free, if your girlfriend tries to hit you, if your girlfriend actually kicks you when you take off her pants, and if she’s crying really hard because she can’t shove you off, and because she can’t defend herself and just gives up and cries then it’s not just a decent excuse, then it’s absolutely not a good reason that you’re drunk. Anyway, I was going to explain how it’s possible that a woman waits that long.

In Steve Stevaert’s case, we know why. She was afraid to lose her job. Of course you would wait until you’ve found a different job. there’s no real job security in this country. and we’re talking about taking a politician to court about a rape… We can already tell by the condolences that Steve Stevaert is being treated as an icon while he’s still a suspect. I’m not saying he actually committed the crime. That’s a case for the court of law. but it’s a sign that the media and society still treat perpetrators or alleged perpetrators of rape too well. The imprisonment rates are laughable too. A while ago I read an article about a man who raped his daughter for seven years and even that guy only did time for 6 years. That girl has been hurt, psychologically traumatised her whole life, and that man has to stay in jail for just six years. I think that our country needs to change this. The punishment for rapes should be a lot harsher. Well. I’m straying again, sorry.

Um, so the reason I waited that long was that none of my friends told me ‘You’re going to the police, now.’. If it were to happen to one of my friends, I’d say that right away. ‘You’re going to the police, now.’ So, in short, I already felt like nobody really believed me. I got that feeling from my own friends. How is the police going to react? so I thought, well, maybe it was my fault. I also stayed with that guy, even though … I was in love with him. He’d raped me, but I was in love with him. So I was actually that girl I hated so much before. that I didn’t understand before. How can a woman stay with a man who abuses her or mistreats her sexually? Well, I do know now. My own experience. Now I know that you can love someone so much that you’d accept anything. Of course I broke it off later on because it couldn’t go on, in my opinion. But that was a year, no more than a year , it’s been two years that it’s over.

Me, I’ve actually doubted this decision for almost a year, whether i’d go to the police or not. Right now I have a great boyfriend who’s really understanding, and I’m very happy about that. I’ve also told him everything. Of course, he’s angry at that guy, which is normal. That should be anyone’s reaction in my opinion: getting angry with the rapist, not the victim, but the rapist. Still I waited a year to take this step because of the high threshold. Still! the threshold is way too high. Especially the question, ‘Will they believe me’. what’s going to happen? what’s going to happen?  And, of course, after all that, is he ever going to be punished? that’s the main problem in Belgium. Most rapists are never punished, hooray!

Keep it up! Yeah, that pisses me off. But I still did it. Why? Because I think the statistics should be correct. I think every woman should be able to report her rape, whether it’s been a year or five or ten years or one hour ago. I don’t care, I think every woman has to report her rape, indeed, at her own pace, because it’s hard. But then, a man from high-up shouldn’t suddenly describe a victim of rape as stupid in the media. Because that’s what you’re insinuating, if you state that ‘why not the day of, or the day after? why wait three years?’ Let’s just say that I’d like to see your reaction when you get raped. It’s a very long and hard road. You don’t think about it every single day but sometimes it eats you up inside. especially for me, it ate me up that i hadn’t reported it yet. After a while, it’s been a few months, and at that point I was afraid to report it because I felt like it was too late. ‘It’s too late, because who will believe me now?’ There’s no proof, it’s his word against mine. Who would want to believe me? So yeah, you put that in your own head. You’re in your own head so much that you don’t report it until you finally realise that you have to. you have to do it because that guy is walking around, free, with no repercussions. Personally I hope he’ll be punished, punished harshly, but I think that the prosecutor… yeah, it’s his word against mine. and who’s going to be believed, usually? Some people say ‘the woman’, but that’s not my experience.

Rape is a delicate affair, a lot of women are raped in Belgium. A lot more than you’d think. And a lot of these women, these victims, you’ve hurt with your remark. Yup, you can have your own opinion, no problem. But respecting a victim of rape, that’s important too. We do want respect. We’re already ashamed, because we’ve been raped. because we didn’t prevent it, because our society still allows victim-blaming. ‘oh, you shouldn’t have been drunk, oh you shouldn’t have worn that skirt, oh, but you should’ve seen it coming’. Sorry but when i started a relationship with that guy, i didn’t see he was a rapist. I think a lot of people don’t see it. a rapist is not a dark creature or a monster hidden in a dark alley somewhere who suddenly grabs you. Like I said, 80% of rapes are committed by an acquaintance, by a friend. or, well, for this woman, a celebrity. So, yeah, I wanted to make this video to show my displeasure and personally I want you to be fired, because, let’s be honest, dean of psychology, i really don’t think you get it. I think there could be a much better dean out there, at VUB, because, no, if you feel that way about victims of rape… It’s just not right. I’d say, by the deontology of psychologists, but even just by using common sense, it’s not right.

Lastly I want to say this, to any woman who’s watching this video, I encourage you to, if you were a victim of rape, and you haven’t reported it yet because you’re so afraid, so ashamed, so pissed off at the Belgian justice system that isn’t worth anything, it’s okay. Just go to the police. Report it. Whether it’s been ten years, report it so  at least the statistics are accurate. So the government realizes at least, how bad the problem really is. In our country as well. I mean, it’s not just about India. Rape happens daily, in Belgium too. so  please, women, or even men, men are victims as well. The worst thing is that men are usually victims of men, not of women, but everybody should report it. whether you’re a man or a woman. Whether you’re in a relationship or not. you have to report it, so this country realizes how bad the problem is.

And we want more justice. We want to see more rapists in prison. We want to see more rapists punished. So many people walk away scot-free while they’ve caused great psychological damage with their victims. It’s not normal. It’s really not normal. I’m also reaching out to everyone, every citizen, to take rape seriously. Yes, there are certain men and women out there who will lie to hurt someone. I don’t know, it’s possible, there’s always that minority. but a majority still doesn’t dare speak up. There are still plenty of rapes that don’t end up in the statistics. Yet, if the environment were more accepting, for such a crime, if people were supportive straight away, and not judgemental towards the victim, or even punish them, but welcome them in, then those victims would find it easier to go to the police, would feel supported and really would have a much easier time starting the healing process. So please, listen to rape victims, it’s not fun, you really suffer psychologically, some women don’t dare go outside at night, afraid to be raped, some women don’t dare go outside alone, afraid to be raped. It’s a very big problem. and men, please, be more open about it, listen to women, listen to their fears, because they’re actually really just scared. And if a woman says no, it’s no. and women, please, if you say no, mean no. Consent is sexy. That was a slogan somewhere and it’s true. always ask. always. Thank-you.

A special thanks to Annelien for translating this message.

4 gedachten over “English transcript of Ashley’s video message to dean Willem Elias”

  1. As a child I was raped by four boys, and then an adult male. The reason no one wants to blame the man is male supremacy and protecting it. Men are meant to be morally superior – but if you look at their track record from burglary, through rape to murder, you can see that culturally, they are not fit for purpose as leaders of an equal society.

  2. It’s really difficult to report rape, essentially because of the reaction of people. The culture we are living in has a lot to do with that. Once you tell people, you get another problem to deal with and it’s making things worse. So it’s really courageous to be able to talk about it.

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