Den Of Geek

Sep 29, 2017

A few words about believing people who speak out.

The online movie community has not been covering itself in glory the last year or two, and it’d be remiss of us not to mention it. Ignoring it is not going to solve anything, and if anything, it contributes in a small way to it.

Behind the scenes of two relatively big US websites – their names aren’t hard to find, but this piece isn’t directly about them – have come horrible stories of what at best could be called sexual harassment, and at worst outright sexual assault. That two men, working on two different sites, have abused their positions. They both held – and hopefully the past tense applies – a power in their respective communities that meant the women – the victims – were either afraid to speak out, or not listened to.

Things got worse. In one instance, the man concerned got employment back with the same company months after he was called out and stepped down. Just stop and think about that for a minute. He left after an accusation – that he apologised for, so this isn’t a case of him denying it – of putting his hands, without permission, down a woman’s clothes and underwear. And within months, he was back on the payroll.

Honestly? It makes us sick to our stomach. Why is the world still having conversations and debates about whether things like this are right or wrong? It’s despicable. It’s clearly wrong. It has has has has has to change.

How the victims of these – and this is the word – crimes feel, we’ve no idea. Our heart goes out to them. It’s a messed up world where we applaud the people who speak up, but that’s the truth of it right now. It’s a huge thing to do. That’s no slight at all on those who didn’t, either. Why speak up, after all, if you think nobody will believe you, and/or the negative consequences will all be on you? Those who do speak up face genuine risk that it’s their life that will take the most damage. How screwed up is that?

This article isn’t going to change the world. But for what it’s worth, can society start at least from a basis of believing people? Can we not instantly assume that when someone speaks out about harassment or assault that they’re wrong? Or they were drunk? Or asking for it? Or just bringing it up now because someone’s got some profile? We’ve seen all sort of accusations of that ilk banded around. We’re supposed to be a tolerant, developed, open society. And yet this still goes on.

Of course, there are two sides to every story. Very few stories can begin to be adequately contained in a Tweet. Conversely, two equal sides to every story? Not so sure. But these are human lives, on both sides of an accusation. We’d suggest that in too many cases still, one side is getting a fairer hearing than the other.

We’re not suggesting we all become Mega City One judges here, rather that the instant jump to disbelieve someone is tempered. We’ve got a culture at the moment where, still, it’s taking years if not more in some cases for people to come forward, so fearful are they of the consequences. That’s a million, million, million times wrong.

There has to be an environment where people can raise their concern, and can have it investigated without fear of professional or personal consequences. To head off the comments here, if accusations are proven false, ramifications are enshrined in law too. But without an environment where people can raise a bona fide complaint even, people are still being abused. Today, probably. The abusers keep getting away with it. The abusers keep doing it. And their power grows.

This affects all genders, too, although it’s clearly women who are predominantly on the receiving end, and predominantly women left in genuine, understandable fear of speaking out.

It’s two thousand and fucking seventeen.

We’re firm believers in every single person out there can change the world. In many ways, the world needs good people right now. This series of articles is about loneliness, on the whole. We can’t begin to imagine the outright loneliness of having someone sexually abuse you, and then nobody believes you when you try and raise it, as if you’re in the wrong.

Enough. Surely, enough. It matters not whether it’s the movie industry, the local council, on the bus or flying to the moon: can we not aim for a society where people are decent to each other, respect each other, treat each right, and treat any accusation of abuse with the gravity it deserves.

You all stay awesome. Pre-warning: this is inevitably a tricky subject to discuss, and thus we may end up turning comments off on this one. Apologies in advance if that proves to be the case.