I Will Believe You, Woman
Netflix's Unbelievable, Jayil Pak's Georgia, a woman's burden to carry proof
When I wrote that I would always believe a woman, until proven otherwise, when she tells me she was abused, a man called me stupid. When I explained how it's impossible for girls to carry proof of everyday abuse, he called it bullshit. When I detailed more experiences and stood by my fellow sisters, he called me sexist.
Jayil Pak’s Georgia
Around the same time, The New Yorker published a piece on Jayil Pak’s 2020 South Korean short film, Georgia. It surrounded the 2014 Miryang gang-rape case where at least 41 male high school students gang-raped several middle school and high school girls over the course of 11 months. The article said:
Pak, who observed the scandal from the U.S. …said that when he was writing his script he found himself struggling to make the story believable. “If you made a film exactly about it, it’s almost like one-dimensional storytelling,” he said, referring to the case. “I felt I had to tone it down. I didn’t think anyone would believe it.”
With a proven case of such massive proportions, the filmmaker still felt the story would be unbelievable for the world, that he had to tone it down.
In 2019’s Netflix miniseries, Unbelievable, which is again based on a true incident brought to light by the 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning article, An Unbelievable Story of Rape, we see a young girl struggling with the police and the justice system to prove that her rape was real. Even with the bruises on her body and the visible trauma in her face, the adults only saw it as a ploy for attention and refused to believe her statements.
Proof is a necessity in a system of justice. To convict a human for their crime, the victim must offer proof of that crime. But when crimes occur in minute incidents throughout one's lifetime, how much proof can one carry?
How would a newborn find words to speak of her babysitter's crime? How would a child record a man's gaze that lingers below her skirt? How would a teenager hold proof of a pervert groping her developing body? How does a woman prove what happens behind closed doors in love and in marriage? Or in open spaces with possessive partners? How do you show proof of an age-old incident that wakes you up at night? How do you show memories? How do you show trauma? How do you show the invisible scars left behind? How do you translate an infant's wail? How do you protect the children? How do you comfort the women they grow up to be?
When witnesses around you ignore these crimes as unavoidable rites of passage, what good would proof do? And when men walk away from their crimes as if they just hadn’t destroyed a woman’s life, what use does proof serve in a justice system?
Proof, often times, exists only in the victim’s memory. And in those cases where proof exists in tangible ways, the truth is seen as unbelievable. And in those cases, where the truth is believed after a tedious fight, the convict walks away with little to no punishment because of his privilege.
I will believe you, Woman
So let him call me what he will. I will believe you, woman, when you tell me you've been abused. I know what it's like walking on this earth as a girl. I won't ask you for proof. I won't ask you what you did. I will try my best to show you life is still worth living and maybe ease your suffering a little.
Proof may not exist in every instance. But disbelief will erase a victim's hope. False accusations may exist in thousands, but it doesn't amount to the millions of women facing abuse in the hands of millions of men. So I will believe you, woman, when you tell me you've been abused. Though you may not carry proof, I know the trauma still haunts you.
So, I will believe you, woman. I will believe you.