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Credible: Why We Doubt Accusers and Protect Abusers

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In this landmark book, a former prosecutor, legal expert, and leading authority on sexual violence examines why allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse are often not believed—and why we live in a nation that is both culturally and legally structured to doubt and dismiss accusers. Sexual misconduct accusations rest on opposing viewpoints: her word against his. How do we d In this landmark book, a former prosecutor, legal expert, and leading authority on sexual violence examines why allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse are often not believed—and why we live in a nation that is both culturally and legally structured to doubt and dismiss accusers. Sexual misconduct accusations rest on opposing viewpoints: her word against his. How do we decide who is telling the truth? The answer comes down to credibility. But as this eye-opening book reveals, deciding which side to believe isn’t as straightforward as it seems. Our judgment is complicated by invisible forces—false assumptions and hidden biases imbedded in our culture, our legal system, and our psyches—that create blind spots impairing our ability to accurately hear and respond fairly.  In Credible, Deborah Tuerkheimer provides a much-needed framework to help us better understand credibility, explaining how we perceive it, how and why our perceptions are distorted, and how those distortions harm individual lives. Because of societal hierarchies and inequalities, who we disbelieve is predictable and patterned, leading to what Tuerkheimer calls the “credibility discount”—our dismissal of certain kinds of statements by certain kinds of speakers, including women, BIPOC, LGBTQIA, immigrants, and other marginalized individuals.  The rise of the #MeToo movement has exposed this inequity—how these victims have been badly served by a system that is not designed to protect them. Using case studies, moving first-hand accounts, science, and the law, Tuerkheimer identifies patterns and their causes, analyzes the role of power, and examines the close, reciprocal relationship between culture and law—to help us more clearly determine who and what is credible.  #MeToo has touched off a massive reckoning. Credible helps us forge a path forward to ensuring fair, equitable treatment of the countless individuals affected by sexual misconduct. 


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In this landmark book, a former prosecutor, legal expert, and leading authority on sexual violence examines why allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse are often not believed—and why we live in a nation that is both culturally and legally structured to doubt and dismiss accusers. Sexual misconduct accusations rest on opposing viewpoints: her word against his. How do we d In this landmark book, a former prosecutor, legal expert, and leading authority on sexual violence examines why allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse are often not believed—and why we live in a nation that is both culturally and legally structured to doubt and dismiss accusers. Sexual misconduct accusations rest on opposing viewpoints: her word against his. How do we decide who is telling the truth? The answer comes down to credibility. But as this eye-opening book reveals, deciding which side to believe isn’t as straightforward as it seems. Our judgment is complicated by invisible forces—false assumptions and hidden biases imbedded in our culture, our legal system, and our psyches—that create blind spots impairing our ability to accurately hear and respond fairly.  In Credible, Deborah Tuerkheimer provides a much-needed framework to help us better understand credibility, explaining how we perceive it, how and why our perceptions are distorted, and how those distortions harm individual lives. Because of societal hierarchies and inequalities, who we disbelieve is predictable and patterned, leading to what Tuerkheimer calls the “credibility discount”—our dismissal of certain kinds of statements by certain kinds of speakers, including women, BIPOC, LGBTQIA, immigrants, and other marginalized individuals.  The rise of the #MeToo movement has exposed this inequity—how these victims have been badly served by a system that is not designed to protect them. Using case studies, moving first-hand accounts, science, and the law, Tuerkheimer identifies patterns and their causes, analyzes the role of power, and examines the close, reciprocal relationship between culture and law—to help us more clearly determine who and what is credible.  #MeToo has touched off a massive reckoning. Credible helps us forge a path forward to ensuring fair, equitable treatment of the countless individuals affected by sexual misconduct. 

30 review for Credible: Why We Doubt Accusers and Protect Abusers

  1. 5 out of 5

    Meghan

    This book was received as an ARC from Harper Wave and Harper Business - Harper Wave in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. Wow this book was really deep and eye-opening and a lot of important information was presented to really think about. We have had a lot of popularity with research on the #metoo movement and I appreciate how Deborah Tuerkheimer holds nothing back and gives it to you straight. I've heard from our patrons the shoc This book was received as an ARC from Harper Wave and Harper Business - Harper Wave in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. Wow this book was really deep and eye-opening and a lot of important information was presented to really think about. We have had a lot of popularity with research on the #metoo movement and I appreciate how Deborah Tuerkheimer holds nothing back and gives it to you straight. I've heard from our patrons the shock and horror of the Surviving R. Kelly and the intensity really was heartbreaking. What is even more horrifying is that our justice system relies on one thing and that is credibility. The more power you have, the more credible you are and that was the case for Harvey Weinstein and R. Kelly. Now with the help of the #metoo movement, there is more awareness out there to give everyone a fighting chance and fight for sexual harassment. This book will definitely help change the system and change the world. We will consider adding this title to our Self Help collection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

    This sounds really, REALLY important

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tracey Thompson

    Credible is an incredibly important book. Author Deborah Tuerkheimer has put together a comprehensive and cohesive guide to how the system is failing women who are subjected to sexual violence. A warning - this book will make the reader incredibly angry; it is filled with stories of how survivors of rape and sexual assault are made to feel as if they are responsible for their attack. Tuerkheimer covers rape myths, such as “the stranger rape paradigm”, a misguided assumption that most rapes are c Credible is an incredibly important book. Author Deborah Tuerkheimer has put together a comprehensive and cohesive guide to how the system is failing women who are subjected to sexual violence. A warning - this book will make the reader incredibly angry; it is filled with stories of how survivors of rape and sexual assault are made to feel as if they are responsible for their attack. Tuerkheimer covers rape myths, such as “the stranger rape paradigm”, a misguided assumption that most rapes are commited by strangers. She also goes into great detail on how victims’ sexual history can be used as a weapon against them in any kind of rape trial. But there is some hope; there is a particularly moving story of the fantastic work attorney sujatha baliga is doing with restorative justice, a form of reconciliation through mediation and rehabilitation. There are also stories within the book of how victims find a way to move on from their attack. I found this book to be incredibly insightful and educational. It is staggering how little support there is for rape victims. A conviction, or any form of validation for the survivor, only occurs within the minority of cases. Thousands of rape kits are left untested, and woman are often dismissed by the institutions they are supposed to trust. For me, the key point Tuerkheimer drove home is that people have to listen to victims. There are so many assumptions when it comes to an emotionally charged crime such as rape, that people sometimes just don’t know how to deal with it. To paraphrase Tuerkheimer’s work, people have certain ideas about how the world is, and anything that shakes that belief can be difficult to deal with. I could go on for days about Credible. Everyone needs to read this book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Weekend Reader_

    I put down another book to start this one and yeah this book was equally intense but I was able to finish it. If a word could sum up my experience it would be Whoa! Tuerkheimer is an attorney and uses concise language to explain why survivors/victims have an uphill battle to find the support they need after they are violated. The short version is that disbelief is the default. She moves to making a compelling case that we are socialized to feel bad for the rich and powerful (yuck but the eg is the I put down another book to start this one and yeah this book was equally intense but I was able to finish it. If a word could sum up my experience it would be Whoa! Tuerkheimer is an attorney and uses concise language to explain why survivors/victims have an uphill battle to find the support they need after they are violated. The short version is that disbelief is the default. She moves to making a compelling case that we are socialized to feel bad for the rich and powerful (yuck but the eg is their lives shouldn't be ruined Bili Cosby and his elk) and the law is setup to make the victim take responsibility for abuser's behavior (why did you put yourself in the position to be raped). Like I said whoa! The longer version is Tuerkheimer frames the book as victims have to fit or be able to navigate the credibility complex which is dedicated by culture (norms, values) and the law (evidence/investigation of assault). In both cases women and victims are at a disadvantage. The system is setup to intentionally revictimized and protects the abused, especially if you the accusser is from a marginalized identity. There is an example where Tuerkheimer suggested that attorneys deploy the good man/guy strategize to scale for exoneration eg. I know John and he's good a person there's no way he could be a rapist. It's easy to then cast a harlot, Jezebel, gold digger narrative. The key though, is that rape over the decades has been narrowly framed as an act that happens with strangers in the dark or some angry monster so anything outside of this realm can be easily unbelievable. Though, IF you believe the victim you have to be called to action, which as Tuerkheimer points out many people do NOT because it's a threat to your safety (how you view rape, your interactions with the abuser, etc.). I think the framing of using rich powerful men coupled with everyday normal abusers provided eerily similarities and as Tuerkheimer puts it rape/sexual is one of the easiest violations to get away with or dismiss: -victim blaming -slut shaming -shifting blame (from the accused to the accuser) -viewing women often as an unreliable and/or untrustworthy narrator -expectations of response during and after the assault -memory of the event -he said/she said response -an extraordinary amount of corroboration and mostly painfully obvious men's entitlement to have sex with women (insert angry emoji) Tuerkheimer's application of institutional betrayal (Freyd, 2013) really adds teeth to her argument and I think for a more critical analysis particularly related to WoC I would recommend reading Jennifer M. Gomez's work on cultural betrayal https://jmgomez.org/cultural-betrayal.... A couple of things you should be aware of before reading this book Tuerkheimer uses language like slaves instead of enslaved when talking about slavery. It's not current language and definitely felt like an outdated take for a book written in 2021. Also, she describes the assaults of all of her victims graphically. I had to take several breaks, but I think it was an intentional decision to remind the reader of how traumatizing the assault can be. Lastly, there are no real recommendations on how to uncouple yourself from automatically disbelieving, which I thought was a missed opportunity. Though, I don't think there's anything you can recommend other than BELIEVE women/survivors. She does reference restorative justice but that seems like it can be again very stressful to the victim which Tuerkheimer points out. Tuerkheimer does indicate the best way to help victims survive is to validate their experience. Yeah, it's a powerful read, I have about 6 pages of notes. CW/N: descriptions of rape on page, legal system not supporting victims (victim blaming, botching investigations, not testing rape kits), intrusive investigations to discredit rape allegations, men getting away with rape, community members being welcomed even with the knowledge of abuse I received a libro.fm credit in exchange for an honest review from HarperAudio.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alexis

    The idea that we, as a society, doubt accusers and protect perpetrators of sexual abuse, assault, and harassment is not revelatory. Many women could tell you that already. The value of Deborah Tuerkheimer's book is not that she makes a new point; it's that she explores how it happens, both in the legal structures and psychological biases that underpin it. The book isn't terribly long—only about 230pp of text—and it moves briskly through its points, illustrated through multiple examples (often en The idea that we, as a society, doubt accusers and protect perpetrators of sexual abuse, assault, and harassment is not revelatory. Many women could tell you that already. The value of Deborah Tuerkheimer's book is not that she makes a new point; it's that she explores how it happens, both in the legal structures and psychological biases that underpin it. The book isn't terribly long—only about 230pp of text—and it moves briskly through its points, illustrated through multiple examples (often enraging). We have biases about who is a "good victim," and how they should behave. Worryingly, those who have power over the situation, such as police, believe these falsehoods. Studies show that 2–8% of assault complaints are false allegations, and they're more likely to be "stranger in an alley" rapes than acquaintance, as is often assumed. Police assume that about 30% of rape allegations are false. They also believe in the righteous victim trope, judging the victims for their conduct and shifting blame from perpetrator to victim. They refuse to investigate rapes, and classify them as "unfounded." The law underpins our distrust of victims. The 1962 model penal code has a three pronged rule for rape and sexual assault: 1) it must be corroborated by outside evidence (a woman cannot be trusted about her own rape); 2) rape must be promptly reported; 3) juries should be given cautionary instructions to take a victim's testimony with extra suspicions. In addition, some states differentiate between voluntary and involuntary intoxication: If a woman drank of her own will, her rapist is not responsible. In sexual harassment law, non economic damage caps haven't changed since 1991 (discouraging attorneys from taking on cases involving lower wage women), and there are tests for how pervasive harassment has to be. Popular opinion often holds that sexual harassment bans all joking in the workplace, but the reverse is true: verbal abuse is excused as joking, and the courts allow it. Tuerkheimer takes us systematically through the steps by which accusers (largely women) are devalued (and learn to devalue themselves) while the needs and feelings of perpetrators (largely men) are upheld. (The exception being white women assaulted by Black men, where racial prejudice trumps sexism.) She's also careful to explore how race impacts Black women in particular as victims: they are doubly victimized because of both their race and gender. They are ignored (as in the R. Kelly case), hyper sexualized, and more subject to sexual violence. There's also an interesting chapter about what victims actually want out of the process. What they want, generally, is validation and vindication: for their claims to be acknowledged as true, and to be supported. Punishment, for many victims, is about showing that their assault mattered, and what that means varies. For Rachel Denhollander, it mattered that Larry Nasser get the maximum sentence, to show that the lives of his victims had meaning. On the flip side, Brock Turner's lenient sentence was offensive not because jail is intrinsically good, but because the process showed that the primary concern was his comfort and future, and not the life of Chanel Miller. The potential and pitfalls of restorative justice, as well as traditional criminal justice, are explored, and while restorative approaches can have good outcomes, Tuerkheimer makes the good point that when a perpetrator participates to avoid punishment, and an institution wants to avoid legal processes, it may not take the needs of the victim into account. Moreover, when the parties are not equal—as they are not in sexual assault—the process may simply replicate social prejudices. This book isn't revolutionary, but it's very well and clearly written.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Penny Adrian

    As a survivor, this book was incredibly healing for me. It also helped me understand why the concept of "Restorative Justice" for rape is so triggering and and feels like a shaming gut punch: it supports the idea that rapists should be treated more leniently than other violent offenders, and reinforces the idea that female humanity is less important than male humanity. That's exactly the message the rapist sends to his victims, and supporters of "Restorative" Justice for rape take the rapist's sid As a survivor, this book was incredibly healing for me. It also helped me understand why the concept of "Restorative Justice" for rape is so triggering and and feels like a shaming gut punch: it supports the idea that rapists should be treated more leniently than other violent offenders, and reinforces the idea that female humanity is less important than male humanity. That's exactly the message the rapist sends to his victims, and supporters of "Restorative" Justice for rape take the rapist's side in delivering that message. This book taught me that I am not a "bad" woman for being a "Carceral Feminist" (I actually made myself a bumper sticker that says Proud Carceral Feminist for my car). WOMEN'S LIVES MATTER! And rape is every bit as serious a Human Rights Violation as police violence against marginalized communities. No more excuses. No more regressive gender roles. No more misogynoir, where Black women are required to sacrifice their own humanity to protect Black men (most Black men do not want or need such "protection"). Women will never have the freedom to live as complete human beings - or citizens - as long as men can rape us with criminal impunity. This book helped me to understand how healing the punishment of sex offenders can be, and that I am not a bad person for desiring that punishment. I recommend this book to every survivor who questions her right to justice.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Brent

    This review is based on an ARC received from the publisher and NetGalley. The book is primarily comprised of the author giving examples of sexual assaults that have occurred and describing the impact this had on the victim, including not only the assault itself, but how other people (friends, family, police, courts, co-workers, etc) reacted and how all of these responses (when negative) can further victimize someone. These examples are further used by the author to illustrate how power and other This review is based on an ARC received from the publisher and NetGalley. The book is primarily comprised of the author giving examples of sexual assaults that have occurred and describing the impact this had on the victim, including not only the assault itself, but how other people (friends, family, police, courts, co-workers, etc) reacted and how all of these responses (when negative) can further victimize someone. These examples are further used by the author to illustrate how power and other dynamics affect whether we confer credibility to the accuser or the abuser when sexual assault allegations occur, and by connection, to whom we attach value. Ms. Tuerkheimer breaks down how our biases and outdated norms and laws prejudice people and the law against sexual assault victims, along with why so many people react to sexual assaults with disbelief. The book is very readable and accessible to people who are not familiar with the specifics of the criminal justice system. The author does reference academic research, but these references flow easily with the text and are not weighed down by jargon. It is a book that will (and should) make you angry, since a number of situations are explained in detail how sexual assault victims have been painfully failed by the rest of us. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about the barriers that we as a society and culture have put in place that prevent us from responding effectively to sexual assault in our communities.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Melinda Owens

    What an eye opener!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Fletcher

    Insightful and impactful, I'm thankful I picked this up. This book was a relatively quick read, yet it was packed with nuanced discussions of belief, vindication, the nature of the law, and more. The author paints a vivid picture of the various mechanisms at play when sexual assault allegations arise, with multiple case studies that reinforce her claims. I do wish the book would've dug deeper into the distinct differences that uniquely affect the cases for people of color and LGBTQ+ victims. Thes Insightful and impactful, I'm thankful I picked this up. This book was a relatively quick read, yet it was packed with nuanced discussions of belief, vindication, the nature of the law, and more. The author paints a vivid picture of the various mechanisms at play when sexual assault allegations arise, with multiple case studies that reinforce her claims. I do wish the book would've dug deeper into the distinct differences that uniquely affect the cases for people of color and LGBTQ+ victims. These communities were often mentioned towards the end of passages, often without their own dedicated sections. Not to say she doesn't discuss them - Tuerkheimer certainly does, but I would've liked to read more cases specifically dealing with the increased rate of violence against these groups. Overall, I learned a lot as a man who hasn't dealt with a lot of these issues personally, but definitely contribute to the status quo culture that plagues the US today. Well worth a read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Dustin Rollins

    This was a hard one to read. I learned a ton about sexual assault, survivors, litigation, and campus adjudication.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Maureen Tully

    Well researched, clearly written, hugely important!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bettsie!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

  14. 5 out of 5

    Autumn Swinford

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sarah • Myreadingpal

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kristie

  17. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

  18. 5 out of 5

    Wendy Swanson

  19. 5 out of 5

    Elisa

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kim Crossgrove

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jillian

  22. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

  23. 5 out of 5

    Linda

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jfkrueger

  25. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Leigh

  26. 5 out of 5

    =^.^= Janet

  27. 4 out of 5

    Janet Conaci

  28. 4 out of 5

    Laura Lawson

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Roberts

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mary Foxe

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