I didn’t want to write about the current drama with Julian Assange at the moment. In fact, I still don’t. I try to avoid high-profile stories, especially since they’re usually not UK-based and what do I know anyway? But my facebook feed has exploded and this is a blog about liberal feminism and what good is talking about good communication and consent and gender equality if I’m too scared to write about something this significant happening in my country? That said, this is going to be short and sweet. Here goes.
I broadly agree with Wikileaks. I do not think Assange should be prosecuted or persecuted for what his organisation did. I think the American politicians who are calling for him to be extradited to the US to face trial there which could risk the death penalty are absurd. Laughable, in fact. Luckily, I think the chances of that happening are highly unlikely. The politicians in question are outraged about what he did, but he did not commit any crime on American soil, and therefore cannot be extradited there. One hopes.
This does not make him innocent of the sexual assault charges he is accused of in Sweden. It is highly possible to be innocent of one crime, and guilty of another. It is highly possible to be a wonderful fantastic talented person in numerous ways, and still be guilty of a crime. Wikileaks and whistle-blowing and all that has absolutely nothing to do with whether he is guilty of the sexual assault charges brought against him in Sweden.
Now, let’s talk about those charges. I’ve seen far too many posts today about how these charges aren’t ‘real’, how they’re either entirely fabricated or that even if they’re genuine they don’t count. He is accused of using his body-weight to hold a woman down and penetrate her against her will. That is rape. He is accused of penetrating a woman while she was asleep, without a condom, when she had specifically said she only consented to sex with a condom. That is rape, twice over (both the fact that she was asleep, and that he did something that was specifically against her consent). The fact that it would be incredibly difficult to prosecute that as rape in some countries, including the UK, does not make it not rape. In Sweden, which is where he allegedly committed these acts, it is legally rape. This is not in question.
Did he do it? How the hell should I know? He hasn’t faced trial. And if it turns out it’s all been fabricated by the CIA and they’re being paid off and none of it’s true? I have faith enough in the legal system to be confident that this will come out in the trial. What’s more, I think it’s a casual and lazy excuse put forward by people who either believe naively that someone they support so strongly could never do anything wrong, or by people who don’t care whether he raped those women, because exposed US military secrets.
I care. And that is why I think he should be extradited to Sweden to face the very real charges against him. If he is found guilty, he should serve a prison sentence in Sweden, then be released. If he is found innocent, he should just be released.
This isn’t to do with the US and the death penalty and Wikileaks. This is a rape charge, and because it’s a rape charge, and the narratives that women make up rape all the time and it’s not rape unless it’s a stranger and it’s certainly not rape if you consented to one thing but not another already exist, his supporters are ready to dismiss it.
So my plea to all his supporters who are camped outside the Ecuadorian embassy ready to fight the police and who are calling for all charges to be dropped and who believe that the whole thing is just some US-generated conspiracy is this: if you really believe he is innocent, let him face trial. These women deserve to have their accusations heard and evaluated in a court of law. And if you were really that certain that Assange hadn’t done anything wrong, you wouldn’t be afraid of that.
Rape is rape, even if it’s a high-profile progressive liberal forcibly penetrating his lover without a condom. Seriously.