If we’re going to get anywhere in terms of people treating people like people, we’re going to need to be as critical of those we idolize as we are of those we don’t. We’re going to have to hold everyone equally accountable for their actions and not just look the other way when that means admitting they’re not all that we want them to be.
Despite allegations from too many of our leaders, we’re not actually facing an epidemic of people lying about being victims of sexual abuse. We don’t have hoards of folks accusing others of rape, pedophilia, or really any abuse just for the heck of it. And I can assure you that it’s just the same for our beloved directors, favourite athletes, or talented musicians.
I’m not judge-and-jury, I’m not a psychiatrist, and I’m not Dylan Farrow. But I’m a person and a victim of sexual abuse and I understand the courage it took for Dylan to tell that story and the humanity required of us to not question it.
We have a backlog of over a half-million rape kits, a justice system that isn’t always just, and a culture that more often than not is telling a victim to just stay quiet and not upset anyone. Please, don’t be a part of these problems. Please, don’t assume that a victim is lying. Please, don’t assume they’re in it for the publicity. Please, don’t make it any harder for victims (and perpetrators) to come forward with their stories.
Every time I see a friend or family member defending a rapist, or worse — just saying the words I Don’t Care, it reaffirms my decision to stay silent on the names of my past abusers and it reminds me that I’m a powerless victim. And I know that’s not right but I think to myself, They don’t even know that celebrity, they’d never believe me over their friend. I’m not speaking for everyone, I don’t know how others feel. But I’m just one voice in a sea of many, many other victims who face this same struggle every time we see you defend an abuser.
You’re not the judge-and-jury, you’re not the psychiatrist, and you’re not the victim. But you’re a person with a voice and I hope that you’ll use that voice to hold people responsible for their actions, even when those are people you look up to. I know that can require a lot and maybe more than you feel you can give, so I’m only asking you to please, please never use your voice to make the victim feel any more like a victim.
*It really bares noting that I don’t personally prefer the term Victim because I feel that Survivor is far more accurate and really conveys the strength we all have to not let our horrible experiences define us. That being said, I wrote this piece because conversations that defend sexual abusers leave me (falsely) feeling as if that strength isn’t really there and that is exactly why I chose to use Victim here.
—Hillary-Anne Crosby, Vagina Editor-in-Chief