Why The World Needs To Believe Shia LaBeouf

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Hollywood actor Shia LaBeouf revealed in an interview a few days ago that he was raped by a woman in an art gallery during the act of his performance art #IAMSORRY. LaBeouf was performing as a silent audience to individual visitors who were lined in a queue when a visitor came in with a prop (whip) and raped him. In his own words, “One woman who came with her boyfriend, who was outside the door when this happened, whipped my legs for ten minutes and then stripped my clothing and proceeded to rape me.”

What is disconcerting is the staunch reaction his revelation has garnered from critics and the social media. Many are questioning his claims, many are chastising him for not being “man enough” to have stopped it and many are stressing the liberties his performance art gave to the visitors. One thing needs to be made clear: Men can be raped, this certainly does not define “masculinity”, and the liberties of his performance art should not even be an issue here. The main issue is that he was raped and that it is time we believed him without playing the shame game.

The incident was confirmed by LaBeouf’s artistic collaborators, British artist Luke Turner took to Twitter:

He also clarified the questioned liberties of their performance art

People are rebuking LaBeouf for doing or saying nothing while the assault happened but what they do not take into consideration before shaming him is the severe shock the body goes in during such assaults. Explicating this point further, LaBeouf has also said in an interview that he could not speak anything when his girlfriend confronted him and they sat still in “painful” silence. Many are also asking why he did not report to the police. Well, in fear of the exact same thing a sexual assault victim hesitates to come out with his ordeal publicly. LaBeouf is now facing the same backlash the fear of which would have restrained him from reporting. Coming out or revealing one’s experience about such assault in our society is enough for public ridicule and humiliation.

The famous commentator, Piers Morgan, also joined the shaming brigade on Twitter and said, “Shia LaBeouf’s claim to have been ‘raped’ is truly pathetic & demeans real rape victims…Grow up, you silly little man.” What does it mean when people say it’s not “real rape”? What exactly fits the definition of real rape? That he did not resist or speak out? We have no idea about what was Shia going through psychologically and emotionally during his performance. However, we do know that he was going through an existential crisis and had been acting out of accord for past few years. So we should pause for a moment and consider all this before pointing fingers back at him. When he says he was raped, we should leave aside all the doubts and ridiculous queries and actually try to believe him. Victims should not have to come out with every possible detail of their state in order for us to believe them.

Namrata Tripathi

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