October 4, 2021

Believing Women with Deborah Tuerkheimer, Author of Credible: Why We Doubt Accusers and Protect Abusers

Deborah Tuerkheimer served for five years as an Assistant District Attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office, where she specialized in domestic violence and child abuse prosecution. In her new book Credible: Why We Doubt Accusers and Protect Abusers, she 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.
#MeToo has touched off a massive reckoning. To achieve lasting progress, we must shift our approach to belief. Credible helps us forge a path forward to ensuring justice for the countless individuals affected by sexual misconduct.
Praise for Credible
“This is not just an important book. It’s way more than that—it’s a new algorithm, an upending of long-held beliefs kept in place by law and culture. If we rewire ourselves to respond more fairly to the accusations that come our way, law reform and culture change will follow. Over time we can dismantle the credibility complex.” —Elizabeth Lesser, bestselling author of Cassandra Speaks and Broken Open
“Deborah Tuerkheimer makes a brilliant, clear, and convincing legal case in Credible that justice for survivors requires basic changes in the law. But she makes an equally compelling plea for something with even more world-historical ambition: a transformation that is needed in the court of public opinion so that women’s dignity—and credibility—is finally seen as equal to men’s.” —Jackson Katz, PhD, educator and author of The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help
“In Credible, Tuerkheimer tells a range of stories of victim-survivors of sexual assault and harassment. What’s different is that she traverses these stories through the lens of credibility—the ways in which its absence (or in rare cases, its presence) will make all the difference in someone’s recovery and healing. This is essential reading not only for those deeply invested in #MeToo activism and scholarship and for victim-survivors who will finally feel seen but also for anyone who has ever known a victim. Which is to say, Tuerkheimer’s book is essential reading for everyone.” —Donna Freitas, author of Consent: A Memoir of Unwanted Attention


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Sources for audio clips

Rape Accuser E. Jean Carroll Seeks Trump DNA | The View https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EO0-K7_oEEs
Trump denies new sexual assault allegations - Busness Insider https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lz-2l8Hk1I
Christine Blasey Ford, Brett Kavanaugh: Most memorable moments from their testimonies - ABC News https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySDsAqz93D0
Susan Collins: I believe Brett Kavanaugh - CNN https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Xz8e4rnWt0&t=289s
Law enforcement and sexual assault
Sexual assault and the Justice System: why so many victims don’t report - The Independent https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxP4Djzv3FA
Failed Justice System
Do victims of rape get justice in DC? - WUSA9 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIEA6Dr6oR8
Brett Kavanaugh Testimony
Brett Kavanaugh emotional as he denies historical sex assault allegations | ITV News https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WAs-noxALU
Anita Hill attacked
Why Kavanaugh's accusers can't remember everything - Vox https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pyLvAxs0MXU
Time's Up
Time's Up leader resigns amid criticism over work with Cuomo - CBS News https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeLghCXFzoM
Progress in fight against sexual assault
#Metoo: how it's changing the world | The Economist https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATYK2svJ6eM
How I help sexual assault survivors feel like they're not on trial - PBS Newshour https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHwChhArr5M

Show Credits

Host: Alyssa Milano
Executive Producer: Alyssa Milano
Associate Producer: Ben Jackson
Editing and Sound Production: Maciej Lewandowski
Music by: Josh Cooke & Eleisha Eagle and Milo Bugliari