The lasting psychological wound left by sexual assault is unique — and makes justice less likely. Survivors’ memories are often blurry, and they tell conflicting stories about what happened to them. The narration Jackie gave to Rolling Stone, her friends, and a Washington Post reporter do not all agree with each other. This is not surprising given the research on the aftermath a sexual assault and how PTSD affects the hippocampus portion of the brain that controls memory. (No wonder only 3 percent of rapists go to prison.)
This is not because women lie. In fact (despite various popular myths), the FBI reports that only 2-8 percent of rape allegations turn out to be false, a number that is smaller than the number (10 percent) who lie about car theft. Yet while women claimed for years that Bill Cosby had raped them, nothing happened. Instead, everyone who abetted and covered Cosby appeared to believe in “a massive conspiracy, between women who don’t know each other, all to bring down Cosby four decades after the fact and long after legal consequences are possible,” says Jaclyn Friedman, author of Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape.
Disbelieving women, then, not only compounds their trauma (often by making them doubt their own stories), but it also lets a serial rapist go free.