With child sexual assault and rape making the headlines one has to question whether the anonymity of victims really protects them from being judged and criticised by the general public. While it is a highly controversial area, it has currently been dominating the news and allowing others to express their shock and disbelief about crimes of this nature, especially when the perpetrator is from such a high and powerful position. More notably it shows just how unprotected those who speak out are from public backlash and judgement.

One can see from the ‘vile’ repercussion that was received by Vanessa Feltz, when she revealed that she was an ‘alleged victim’ of the newly convicted Rolf Harris. Comments such as “Rolf Harris was thought to be short-sighted”, “even he has lowered his standards”  and “she wishes” were highly common in the responses towards the statement made by Vanessa Feltz especially on social media.

Despite having been convicted of 12 sexually indecent assaults, individuals were taking to social media, not to defend, but to attack the ‘alleged victim’. The reaction received was highly misogynistic, and undoubtedly will prevent others who have been assaulted in a similar way or even by the same perpetrator from coming forward.

The harsh backlash from readers still shows the need for anonymity, due to the stigmatisation that is attached to being a victim of such crime. With sexual assault already being a taboo topic, are the reactions towards the ‘alleged’ victim silencing them further? Are we as a population and social mediasphere scaring others from coming forward? Commentating on every action in today’s world may be a vital way to express opinions and indulge in worldwide news, but do we really reflect on what we are actually saying?

The Rolf Harris case was highly publicised, and one has to note that those that came forward did so after the news of the conviction, quite possibly because they were afraid that they would not be believed but now felt that they too could get some peace of mind from finally speaking out.

Whilst a negative reaction has not been the response from everyone, with accusations being made that the ‘alleged victim’ was in fact just ‘jumping on the bandwagon’, it has allowed the public to possibly silence other victims. Whilst everyone is entitled to their opinion, are people really thinking about the effects that their scrutiny could have on others and how harmful it could be to that victim who opened up?

It appears that we live in a society where a ‘victim’ is not a true victim until someone is found guilty; where if there is not enough evidence to convict a culprit than the ‘alleged victim’ is often perceived to be a ‘liar’ or an attention seeker in particular cases of sexual assault.

Are our responses scaring those who built up the courage to come forward, fearing that they too will not be believed? With the fear of disbelief and judgement more prominent in social networks, rather than the tabloids, are we allowing for more perpetrators to get away with their vile crimes, and making the victims continue to suffer in silence.

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