Charisma Carpenter offers suggestions concerning how she thinks people should respond to allegations of historical sexual and psychological abuse:
• Please don’t tell people to “rise above,” “just move on, it was a long time ago,” “get over it” and “forgive and forget” abusive experiences. This is dismissive and devoid of empathy. Justice for the abused is an integral part of the healing process. It’s hard for a traumatized person to move on when they watch the transgressors move up the ladder and gain power even as they repeat patterns of toxic behavior without answerability.
• Don’t ask others to share details of their trauma beyond what they are willing to volunteer. Questioning someone’s experience when it is not a part of a formal investigation is insensitive and signals that you, the judge, need more evidence to evaluate what you are being told is truthful. Just listen. Be empathetic. Be a safe person.
• Believe others when they tell you they are hurt or traumatized by events that occurred in their life. It’s taken serious courage for them to identify their pain and be able to speak about it aloud.
• Don’t play devil’s advocate for an abuser, make excuses for them or imply that victims have somehow misunderstood their trauma. If they are speaking about it publicly, they have likely done hard work in regards to their trauma and gotten help to process their experience clearly.
• Don’t expect victims of abuse to talk about their abuse at the time it happened. Often it takes years for survivors to process their trauma and even longer to realize the extent of harm it has caused.
• Ranking verbal and mental abuse as less intense or serious than acts of physical violence is also a form of abuse. It denies and dismisses a person’s experience as not being “painful enough.”
• Empathize with people who have experienced verbal, mental or sexual abuse. Just because you can’t see the scars doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
• Don’t blame people for staying in abusive situations. Blame the abuser or institutions still in place for making it difficult or impossible to leave. The underlying message is that the victim “asked for it” or that it’s their fault they were abused. It’s not. It’s the abuser’s fault.
• Sexist jokes, job-security threats, microaggressions and passive-aggressive behavior can no longer be accepted as “part of the game” to get ahead. Let’s cultivate change away from such toxic tropes. We owe it to the next generation to leave a better legacy in the workplace.
• Rationalizing power abuse, misogyny, racism or sexism to a survivor by explaining, “It was a different time then,” is unacceptable. These things were never OK. If we minimize these past behaviors, we’re bound to keep doing them in the future.
• Refrain from making comments, especially publicly, that unwittingly undermine the pain of others. Ask yourself: Do I have anything substantive to add to this conversation? Have I experienced trauma from abuse and discrimination? If the answer is no, it is not your turn to be heard.
• Believe people when they say, “This happened to me.” Believe it the first time.
• When an abuser is identified, keep the focus on the culprit instead of diverting the conversation to the abuses of others. Comparisons and “whataboutism” are tactics used to obfuscate the process of holding a specific person accountable and bringing them to justice.
• Seeking accountability and consequences for patterns of workplace abuse aren’t about “cancel culture.” It’s best to reframe it as “consequences culture.”
• Don’t make a survivor responsible for how their trauma makes you feel. Rather, consider the person who has been violated. That’s where the focus belongs.
• Headlines often describe acts of rape, assault or drugging victims as “sexual misconduct.” It is not “misconduct.” These behaviors are predatory and criminal. They should be labeled accordingly. Call the thing, the thing.
• Hire people who have spoken out. Nothing is more isolating and scary than having your ability to feed your family taken away. This fear holds people hostage to their suffering and supports a broken system. Stop labeling victims of abuse as the ones who are problematic. The abuser is problematic — not the abused.
It’s important to remember that the court of public opinion is NOT a court of law. There is no presumption of innocence in the court of public opinion, and given the historical nature of the Hellmouth, there should absolutely be a presumption of guilt if a Hellmouth power player is accused of abusive behavior. It’s almost certainly true.
Too many men are fearful that they might one day be accused of their own creepy or borderline behavior, which inclines them to defend the indefensible. And the fact that some of the women who are making accusations are literal whores is irrelevant, as under even the most amoral libertarian contractual standard, a prostitute always has the right to decide with whom she will engage in business relations or not. There is no statute of limitations on history.
Good and moral men are not going to be taken down by a higher public expectations of behavior. Gammas, creeps, and pedos will be. So the higher the behavioral bar is raised, the better. And the sooner the true realities of the Hellmouth are exposed, the better.