Sexual assault victims are often criticized for not reporting the attacks on them sooner, but immediately after an attack, a victim may not know who to trust, or what response to expect.
Looking around, one sees victim-blaming everywhere. Even in 2018, when a woman comes forward to say she was sexually assaulted by President Donald Trump’s nominee to SCOTUS, the president himself has tweeted to hint that it’s not real unless she filed a police report when it occurred, when she was only 15, and to call the accused attacker “a fine man.”
Sexual assault victims take these messages in daily, and consider them when determining if there’s anyone safe to turn to. In Horry County, South Carolina, an activist group is fighting these messages on a local level, asking for a school board member to step down for mocking survivors who don’t share their stories for years.
According to WYFF4, Sherrie Todd shared a post on her Facebook page that suggested victims who come forward when their alleged abuser is running for political office are lying to gain a partisan advantage.
I’ve already decided that whoever wins the Democrat Nomination in 2020 sexually assaulted me 40 years ago.
Sherrie Todd’s page on the Board of Education website lists her credentials and other responsibilities: She’s a retired teacher, serves on the Book Adoption Committee for the state’s Department of Education, and has served on the Board of Trustees for the Horry County Museum.
A letter from the Horry County Alliance for Educational Justice calls on Todd to resign, saying her post is
…completely offensive, inappropriate, insensitive, and beneath someone who has the responsibility of caring for the most vulnerable citizens of Horry County: our children. Mrs. Todd’s endorsement of this post betrays her gross lack of consideration of the lived reality of our fellow citizens, including children, who are survivors of sexual assault.
The letter further calls the social media post inconsiderate of the history of men of color being falsely accused of rape and sexual assault, and subjected to violence and death over these false stories.
When Myrtle Beach Online contacted Todd on Thursday, she said she didn’t share the post, and that someone staying with her during Hurricane Florence may have shared it accidentally when using her iPad.
In a second post, Todd said,
It was just brought to my attention that there was a post on my account that was completely out of my character and offended people that read it. I had several young people at my home during the hurricane is all I can say. Please accept my apology from the bottom of my heart.
The Alliance for Educational Justice did not overlook this post, but expressed that it sidestepped responsibility and was half-hearted:
In spite of Mrs. Todd offering what we consider a half-hearted apology that ultimately passed the responsibility to others for the post being shared, we call Mrs. Todd’s judgement, sensitivity, and integrity as a school board member into question. Therefore, we find that the appropriate course of action Mrs. Todd should take is to resign from the school board immediately.
The Horry County Board of Education has offered no public response to the incident, and Sherrie Todd’s social media page has been either deleted or made private, no longer visible in searches. However, in screenshots of the posts, a tiny image of a globe indicates that these were publicly visible, rather than only to Todd’s own social media contacts. Thus the message shared was visible not only to people who might know the board member well enough to dismiss it as an accidental share, but to students old enough to have a Facebook account, parents whose students attend Horry County schools, and co-workers.
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Steph Bazzle reports on social issues and religion for Hill Reporter. She focuses on stories that speak to everyone's right to practice what they believe in and receive the support of their communities and government officials. You can reach her at Steph@HillReporter.com