In our last post we discussed allegations of abuse, abuser responses in social media, and public reactions to both the allegations and the responses. In this post we will attempt to analyze victim shaming, apologies from abusers, and public reactions to these apologies. As I write this, Matt Lauer has been fired from his position as a news anchor for over two decades as a result of “inappropriate sexual behavior.” His co-host are heartbroken, and in response Jim Denison has stated that “reputation is built in a lifetime but damaged in a moment.”
In our culture, many people who have been abused or raped often do not come forward out of fear of victim shaming. Shaming can come from the abuser, where the individual threatens the reputation, safety, or livelihood of the one being abused. Victim shaming can also come from others such as employers, police officers, and others who make the victim feel like it was partially his or her fault for letting the assault happen. Victim shaming points the blame at the wrong person and results in many victims not coming forward after they have been abused, harassed, or assaulted. What we are seeing now is that when one person is brave enough to come forward, others are encouraged to come forward with their own stories.
Victims are often ashamed of what happened to them. They do not want others to know what happened, they may not be sure if what happened is technically abuse or not because lines are sometimes blurred when determining what constitutes rape (especially if drinking or drugs are involved), victims are afraid no one will believe their stories (especially if their abuser is someone with significant power and influence), and they often feel like reporting the incident makes them even less in control of the situation.
Terry Crews stated that he was afraid to come forward because he thought it would jeopardize his career and possibly land him in jail. His reasons for staying silent before are exactly the kind of reasons that victim shaming must not be practiced. All stories must be taken seriously until proven false, while at the same time those accused of abusing, harassing, and assaulting must also be trusted to be innocent until proven guilty.
It is a fine line to walk when taking allegation claims seriously without marring someone’s reputation before knowing if the allegations are true. But real victims must be encouraged to report their abuses. They must be given a voice and they must not be told they are to blame for what happened.
The way someone dresses, they jobs they take, the pictures they take, the roles they play in film or on television, none of it makes it ok for someone else to take advantage of them. All people are valuable and all people deserve to be treated with dignity regardless of any past decisions they have made. There is no place for abuse in a just, free, or good society.
Apologies and Reactions
At this point a number of individuals accused of abusing others have made formal statements or apologies. The two that stand out the most are from Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K.
Kevin spacey stated that he did not remember the account (of his first accuser) and then made an excuse saying that the behavior must have been a result of drinking too much, he then changed the subject to his sexual orientation. By apologizing in this manner, he did not own up to his actions, he did not take responsibility, and he tried to change the topic to have the focus taken off of his actions. Shortly after his career unraveled.
Louis C.K. on the other hand, posted a statement that his accusers were telling the truth about his behavior. He recognized that he had problems, and that he would be reflecting on his actions.
Ben Tinker at CNN wrote an article about the right and wrong way to apologize. In it quotes Karina Schumann who has published an article stating that “there are three “core” elements of a good apology.” These three elements include:
- Expressing remorse (saying “I’m sorry” or “I apologize”) and expressing regret (saying “I feel awful” or “I regret…”)
- Accepting responsibility
- Offering to repair the problem (state what you will do to fix the problem or what steps you will take to be better moving forward)
Schumann states that an apology may “require additional elements:
- An explanation of your words or actions.
- A promise that you will behave better in the future.
- Acknowledgment that you understand how your victim has suffered.
- Admission of wrongdoing, such as “It was wrong of me to say the things I said” or “I shouldn’t have spoken poorly about you.”
- A request for forgiveness.”
When apologizing, the person should never shift blame to the victim.
These tips are good for all of us to read but especially important right now for those who have been accused of misconduct. If the accusations are true, then the individuals need to take responsibility for their actions, apologize to their victims, step down from their positions of power, and likely seek mental help.
Louis C.K. recognizes that he has problems. Reading the accusations about him makes me think that he has a disorder. He needs to take the necessary steps through counseling to overcome his addiction/disorder. Often times people who abuse others have been abused and/or find themselves addicted to things. Sexual addiction is rampant in our society. When people in power have sexual addictions, it is likely that they will use their power to meet the needs of those addictions. This again turns attention to the state of mental health in our country. More resources need to be made readily accessible to people with addiction problems and mental disorders. We are all broken and those with serious issues need serious help.
So now we ask what the consequences should be? Should directors and producers never be allowed to direct or produce again? Should actors never be allowed to act again? Should politicians never be allowed to work in public office again? And how should we now view shows or films that achieved critical acclaim now that those who made them have come under fire?
Socially speaking, the individuals who have been accused of immoral behavior will likely never gain their full reputations back. They may be allowed to work again, but not at their former capacity. They will likely face ridicule for years to come. As Christians, perhaps we should begin praying for them now. Praying for them to seek help and to take the necessary steps to get better.
In the previous post I mentioned that Sarah Silverman loved her friend Louis C.K. but that she was also very angry at what he did. This tension is good and proper. She loves the sinner but hates the sin (my words, not hers).
The person who abused Terry Crews is still working as if there are no consequences, this is not right. The person may be good at his job, but he must be held accountable for his actions and there must be consequences. This does not mean that he should never work again, but it does mean that his status should change and that he should not remain in a position where he can easily abuse others.
Perhaps Spacey will work again, but not for a while. He too needs to seek counseling, therapy, etc. He needs help.
And honestly, I think Roy Moore should bow out of the political race. With so many accusations (even if some are clearly false) it brings disrepute upon our whole governmental system. By refusing to drop out he is either clearly convinced of his innocence, or he is publicly shaming victims. The graceful thing here is to move out of the spotlight until the investigation ends. If he wins and it turns out that the accusations are true, then it will send a clear message to abusers everywhere that consequences can be avoided even if their actions become public knowledge.
Should past works be devalued as new information about those involved in the art come to light?
I don’t think so. When past works are now viewed, they will be viewed in a new light, but the art is already out there. Flawed people can make good art, but the flaws must not be ignored just because they are good artists. Artists who abuse others should seek help and be monitored to keep further abuse from happening. If necessary, the abusers should serve time in jail.
In the next post we will discuss hypocrisy in art, personal healing, and personal responsibility. We will also talk more about sex offenders and future jobs, sex offenders and community neighborhoods, and how punishment should fit the crime.