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Sexual misconduct accusations spark competing claims: 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, invisible forces warp the credibility judgments of even the well- intentioned among us. We are all shaped by a set of false assumptions and hidden biases embedded in our culture, our legal system, and our psyches.
In Credible: Why We Doubt Accusers and Protect Abusers, Deborah Tuerkheimer provides a much-needed framework to explain how we perceive credibility, why our perceptions are distorted, and why these distortions harm survivors. Social hierarchies and inequalities foster doubt that is commonplace and predictable, resulting in what Tuerkheimer calls the “credibility discount”—our dismissal of claims by certain kinds of speakers—primarily women, and especially those who are more marginalized.
The #MeToo movement has exposed how victims have been badly served by a system that is designed not to protect them, but instead to protect the status quo. Credibility lies at the heart of this system. Drawing on case studies, moving first-hand accounts, science, and the law, Tuerkheimer identifies widespread patterns and their causes, analyzes the role of power, and examines the close, reciprocal relationship between culture and law—guiding us toward accurate credibility judgments and equitable treatment of those whose suffering has long been disregarded.
Tuerkheimer is in conversation with Donna Freitas, author of over twenty books, both fiction and nonfiction, for adults, children, and young adults. Among them are Consent: A Memoir of Unwanted Attention, and Consent on Campus: A Manifesto. She has spoken at nearly two hundred colleges and universities about her nonfiction research and has written for The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Boston Globe. She is currently a member of the faculty at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s MFA program.