The Ignorance of Well Doers

**WARNING**Possibly triggering material (abuse/sexual assault)**WARNING**

A gentleman I know recently wrote an Opinion piece in the local newspaper back home in Huntington, WV. The column is entitled Is Cosby a Victim of Questionable Accusations?

I was stunned and hurt by what he wrote. I have blogged about my own struggles with sexual assault and how abuse in general results in psychological issues that can wreak havoc on a person’s life. Individuals who are truly informed about sexual abuse can be empathetic, yet it is distant to the understanding from someone who has survived it.

Just imagine….

Someone in the mall looks a little too similar for your comfort, so you avoid going into the store to buy those shoes you need.

Your boss says something to you, and your skin prickles, heart races, breath shallow, palms sweaty. You just need to get away as soon as possible.

A co-worker makes an inappropriate joke, and suddenly you feel that phantom hand caressing you there

A stranger compliments your appearance, and your defenses go up, waiting for when he will make his move.

Your lover touches you a certain way, and you cry and push to get away.

These things are similar to what survivors experience for years after the abuse; many times they experience it for the rest of their lives.

Yet we should expect them to report it right away? Sometimes it feels safer to hide from it as much as possible. When your subconscious forces you to relive feelings and responses in the most mundane activities in life, it becomes a blessing not to have to consciously think or talk about it. Survivors who report the abuse – regardless if it’s right after or years after – demonstrate a level of mental courage that many people cannot fathom. Hell, it takes an insurmountable amount of strength to live with this on a daily basis, regardless of whether the crime is reported (RAINN statistics suggest that more than 50% of survivors never report the abuse).

For Cosby, it’s unlikely that any criminal proceedings will occur because of the statute of limitations. To me, it’s an error in awareness to think that his accusers have suddenly come out of the woodwork. Cosby settled on similar allegations in 2006. They didn’t just come out of the woodwork – the murmurings of such despicable behavior have been around for years.

I was stunned and hurt by what he wrote. Unfortunately, I wasn’t stunned that someone would have these views. The knee-jerk reaction to distrust the accusers is an internalized by-product of the rape culture, even by people who are meaning to do well (“because Bill Cosby, in my wildest imagination, would never have had any reason to behave so irresponsibly and criminally”).

I was stunned because it came from someone that I thought cared about me and my experience. Given his responses to the comments people have made, I have to question just how aware that caring is.

Bless the survivors – those who report, and those who don’t.

If you’re a survivor or someone who wants to learn more to support the survivors in your life, you can find a wealth of information and resources at RAINN: Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

6 thoughts on “The Ignorance of Well Doers”

  1. I do care about you a whole lot, and I did not know you were a survivor of sexual assault. I will write here…as I have not written anywhere else…I, too, am a survivor of sexual assault! So, I’m rather sick of people suggesting I don’t know what I’m talking about. So, I suppose no one has realized that my column raised to a significant level of discussion something which hasn’t been raised on this subject ever…to my knowledge. Mea Culpa! I certainly won’t ever venture into this territory ever again, and I’ll keep my own experiences to myself, since my education, training in Crisis Management, counseling victims, personal experience, and years of counseling mean absolutely nothing. Everyone has been too, too busy condemning me. What a dumbie I was for having attempted to write a column on the subject of “how times have changed,” “the terrible and horrific crime of rape,” and “trying people in a court of public opinion.” (which I’ve also had some experience with!). So much for trying to raise awareness!

    1. I admire the courage you have to be open about your own experiences. I would hope that you would understand why people are having the reaction to your column as they are. I know in my heart of hearts that you meant no ill-intent in this. Yet, when you look at word choice and implication, a certain message is sent that goes beyond the actual words on the screen. My Goddess, even with the title of “Is Cosby a victim of questionable accusations?” Right off the bat the title equates Cosby with being the victim and the accusers as being questionable. Everyone – including us as writers – are tried in the court of public opinion. That’s the consequence you accept when you do things in public, when you do things that affect other people. Is it true that there are alleged survivors who have lied about their abuse for one reason or another? Absolutely. However, they are in the minority. It’s hard to even pin down realistic statistics on sexual abuse because of how much people don’t want to be “public” about it.

      I actually agree with you in that I don’t think we’ll ever know the truth. Yet, with the way you presented your argument, although you’re warning people against assuming that the accusers are telling the truth, it is presented that you made your own assumption in that they’re lying by saying that “Bill Cosby, in my wildest imagination, would never have had any reason to behave so irresponsibly and criminally.” Why? Because he’s famous? Because he’s rich?

      Poor people who are not famous do not corner the market on degenerate behavior. If anything, the news about Stephen Collins has shown that yes, even some celebrities that many admire are really monsters behind closed doors.

      1. First, I don’t write the headlines for my Op-Ed pieces. They are done by the editor, depending upon how much space he has and how my piece fits into the space (500 words) allotted to it. I hope this answers one of your concerns. You’re the only one who raised this issue.

        Second, my articles are subject to editing to fit into the space provided. I have written this several times, but no one cares to believe me or give me the benefit of the doubt (when I wrote the article). When I wrote, “Bill Cosby, in my wildest imagination, would never have had any reason to behave to irresponsibly and criminally,” I purposely framed it in past perfect tense, which meant that as I saw Bill Cosby back then–as comic/philosopher, highly educated, and “Dr. Huxtable” in his sit-com–when these incidents took place…”In my wildest imagination, would never have had any reason to behave so irresponsibly and criminally.” I’ve tried to explain this over and over and over, but no one cares to give me a single iota of credence here. Obviously, you are absolutely correct in your conclusion that “[my] intent was to do well,” and “how the structure of your message would be perceived once it was in the public sphere.”

        This is the great danger of all writing for public consumption…that you will be misunderstood. I did not expect any of this outpouring of anger. Trust me on this. All I can say now is, the article certainly did bring the subject to the forefront of a great many peoples’ attention. I am truly sorry if it did damage to anyone, but if it had been understood in the context I intended it, it probably wouldn’t have. Deb has begged me to stop responding, period, but I cannot not respond to you. I hope you, at least, can have a better understanding of what I intended. After all, it’s the people I know whom I care about most. And, what saddened me, was that so many people who know me well and know where my heart lies allowed me to be pilloried. So be it! It certainly won’t be the last time I’ll goof royally. It seems to happen quite regularly with the fundamentalist sect! I’ll keep writing, because I must write; and I suppose all of these critics will view all of my writing in a new light. That’s what people do. Best of luck in your writing endeavors!

    2. And just to clarify – importance of word choice is exactly why I titled my blog the way I did. In writing the column, I do believe your intent was to do well. However, in my opinion, the execution lacked the awareness of how the structure of your message would be perceived once it was in the public sphere.

  2. Miilt – thank you for shedding light on this. I’m in even more mortified that the Herald Dispatch titled the piece as such to give it a glaringly negative slant! Honestly, I knew all along where you were going with the piece – because I do know you, and would be shocked if your intentions were any type of ill will. That’s the reason my reaction was more hurt, than anger.

    And to be honest, I agree with the base notion of the message you intended – no one knows, innocent until proven guilty, the courts should decide these matters, not some type of social media revenge tactic set on character assassination. Hopefully everyone will understand that I temper this understanding with the belief that victims are ALSO innocent until proven guilty (falsely accusing), and I know without a doubt that just because there wasn’t a conviction, doesn’t mean a crime wasn’t committed.

    All the best to you and Deb.

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