This cartoon was drawn by Becky Hawkins.
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Anytime a male student is accused of sexual assault – or even when discussing things more abstractly, like how campus justice systems should treat a student accused of rape – we hear the same argument: “We can’t ruin his life.”
In context, “ruining his life” is a statement that can mean many things. Everything from a long prison sentence, to being expelled, to being made to switch dorms or classes, to losing a place on a sports team, to even being investigated in the first place.
I actually do take their point. Men falsely accused of rape do exist.
But victims of rape also exist. Although being a victim of rape is terrible in any circumstance, it can make things even worse when schools refuse to take action to protect victims, for fear of inadvertently punishing a falsely accused man. Some victims have had to take classes with their attacker, or live in the same dorm.
There is no solution that completely avoids unfairness. But making schools shouldn’t do anything that impacts the life of an accused rapist our top priority doesn’t reduce unfairness. It just transfers it. It moves unfairness away from accused rapists by piling even more unfairness onto rape victims.
This is even worse when we consider that rape is a much more common crime than false reports of rape are. We can’t use this principle to judge any individual case, but it’s safe to say that a large majority of rape reports are true.
Figuring out school justice systems is complex. But schools effectively treating the protection of accused men as their first and foremost goal, making the protection of victims a distant second priority, is a bad solution.
When I was thinking about how to approach this cartoon, I wanted to push back subtly against the “ruined lives” narrative. People are hurt badly, and the course of their life may be altered. But for most, their lives go on. The two women and the girl in this cartoon are all still having lives, and perhaps very good lives, but that doesn’t mean that they’re entirely okay and uninjured.
And frankly, the same is true of a man who is kicked off the football team or even made to switch colleges. The course of his life has been altered – in most cases, deservedly so – but his life is not “ruined.”
I’m not surprised that Becky chose to draw this one. It aligns with Becky’s politics, of course, but it also aligns with Becky’s love of drawing different characters and settings.
Just look at that background in panel 2! She drew seven houses and three cars like it’s nothing. God, how I hate Becky.
[Becky here! Barry is right–I really enjoy drawing different environments! Google maps was my friend for this cartoon. I like opening Google Street View and clicking around different neighborhoods to find the right setting. If I find an area I want to use in a cartoon, I’ll save screenshots to look at later. Panel 1 is a street in Northwest Portland with lots of shops and tall apartment and office buildings. Panel 2 is based on a sleepy street in Southeast Portland. (Instead of copying the street exactly, I clicked up and down looking for an interesting collection of houses.)
The guy in Panel 4 is modeled after Ben Shapiro. I saw a photo of him speaking into a microphone with a radio station written on the arm. So if you zoom in close enough, the red part of the mic arm says “WTAF.”
I’d actually blocked out the memory of drawing the hand holding the phone. It took so many tries to get it to look right. When I opened the file folder for this cartoon and saw all the reference photos and stock photos I ‘d saved of hand-holding-a-phone, it came flooding back. I’m pretty sure I spent more time trying to draw that dingdang hand than I did drawing seven houses and three cars!]
Barry here again. Oddly enough, I love drawings close-ups of hands holding smart phones, which is probably why I put them into my cartoons so often.
TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON
This cartoon has four panels, each showing a different scene. A tiny additional fifth “kicker” panel is under the bottom of the cartoon.
A Black woman in what appears to be a UPS or UPS-like uniform is standing holding a large box with an address label on it, and an electronic clipboard device on top of the box. Behind her we can see the open doors of the back of a van, and inside the van, more boxes to be delivered. She’s parked on a city street, in front of the entrance to a brick building. She speaks directly to the viewer, with a calm but downcast expression.
WOMAN: Everywhere I went I was terrified I’d run into him. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t concentrate…
WOMAN: After I failed two classes I lost my scholarship.
A light-skinned girl is on a bike, on a suburban-looking street. The street is clearly residential, and is lined with cottage-style houses. The girl’s clothing is pink, like her shoes and the pedals and basket of her bike.
She’s facing the viewer, but looking downward with her eyes to avoid looking directly at us.
GIRL: He sent the video to everyone in school. Everyone. I had to be homeschooled until I could get into a different school.
A light-skinned woman sits in an armchair, looking vaguely into the air as she talks. She’s wearing jeans and a yellow top, and holding a baby, who is standing in her lap and doing that cute-but-annoying thing babies do of patting the face of the person holding them while that person is trying to talk. The baby has a pink skirt and is cute.
A plant hangs from the ceiling. Judging from the brick building next door we can see out the window, and the radiator below the window, this is probably an apartment in a city. Her expression is a bit sad, but not over the top or panicked.
WOMAN: It’s been ten years… My therapist says PTSD isn’t ever cured, but it’s something I can learn to manage.
A hand with pink, smoothly filed nails holds a smartphone. On the smartphone, a pale-skinned male podcaster or radio host is sitting at a table, a professional-looking microphone in front of him. He’s wearing a jacket over a blue collared shirt (no tie), shrugging with a sad-but-calm expression.
MAN: Nobody feels worse than me about what happened — but we can’t ruin these young men’s lives!
TINY KICKER PANEL UNDER THE BOTTOM OF THE CARTOON
The man from panel 4 is talking to Barry, the cartoonist.
BARRY: What sort of thing would “ruin their lives”?
MAN: Being expelled. Or being publicly criticized. Or made to switch dorms. Or to switch a class. Basically, anything he might notice.