I believe the victims. I always believe the victims. Yesterday, I saw an incredible show of support that reaffirmed my love of my city and my scene. In that, I saw a handful of people (all men) who felt the need to suggest that the onus of the prosecution, the legal issues, that those were the responsibilities of the women involved, and that in not immediately submitting themselves to what I can only imagine to be a shameful examination makes them somehow complicit.
None of that is okay. Not today. Not ever. I was called a “feminist,” as if that is a pejorative, and my motives were questioned, just for believing the word of the victims over the abusers. If you use the words “Virtue Signaling” I already think less of you. For those fortunate enough to have avoided this phrase, it implies a disingenuous response on the behalf of the person accused of signaling their virtue, as if kindness or empathy are only tools to receive affirmation. The cynicism that underscores that statement is devastating, and instills in me a sympathy for the person saying that, that they have so little hope in their world that they cannot fathom altruism, which is not meant as any particular endorsement of myself or anyone else.
On top of that, it undermines the very concept of empathy. The central idea to this “dialogue,” a conversation that devolved quickly as these things are wont to do, was this notion that people shouldn’t judge until the law does what it does. Again, that lacks the empathy to understand the psychological horror of sexual violence (etc.), and ascribes a black and white solution where one does not exist. Supposing though, that there was some physical evidence of intercourse, that does not always “prove” consent, which is why we should always listen to the victims. Especially in an instance where there are multiple victims, why would you not want to listen to them, process that, and look to help? Unless you are a public defender, you have no obligation to defend someone accused of sexual predation.
The idea was not to have a “witch hunt” or hang anyone out to dry in the court of public opinion. It is a slippery slope, which is the very heart of why it endures, this notion that if there are too many people called out for their depravity, then that may somehow upset a balance. That’s not acceptable. If you are a man reading this, and you hear another man defending someone, it’s your responsibility to set the tone. If you turn a blind eye to sexual predation, you are perpetuating a problem. You are allowing a bully to continue their bullying. Confront that wherever and whenever possible, because the men that would perpetrate these acts are doing so with the belief that they can succeed.
It’s not illegal to dislike someone. It’s not illegal to believe a victim. It’s not illegal to boycott an artist or establishment, because you believe accounts from a victim. Libel is real, which unfortunately adds another wrinkle to the public telling of these types of stories, and which prevents a lot of journalism. Outlets need staff to thoroughly cover a case, and the financial backing to fend off potential court cases. But believing a victim is free and easy. The benefit of the doubt costs you nothing but your willingness to listen and empathize. What’s sad here is that, everything I’ve written can and does apply to a thousand cases. What matters is that you listen and process what victims say and support them whenever possible.
To quote the great Kurt Vonnegut, “‘Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies-‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’”