April 20, 2018

On Holding Abusers and Their Enablers to Account

09 March 2018 

If we are to act against abuse (including SH), perhaps we should focus not on abusers but on those who create environments in which they thrive, the mechanisms they employ, & how they can be leashed. Abusers generally do not abuse others because they must but because they can.

Quite apart from holding abusers accountable, we also need to hold abuse-enablers to account. And recognise that access to law & access to justice are not synonymous esp when "law" is determined by abusers and their supporters, & its processes ― due process ― controlled by them.

Worth asking why responses to abuse are structured the way the are, whose story is (not) told, & who benefits. Confidentiality of findings? The truly victimised, the falsely accused don't benefit; perhaps institutional/family reputation can? What priories underlie responses?

Who determines which channels through which to complain of abuse are legitimate? Who controls proceedings through supposedly-legitimate channels? The same people in both cases? How do you avoid a conflict of interest & ensure fairness?

Through history, some of the worst abuses of humans have consistently been deemed entirely legal by the persons in power who both committed them & determined what was lawful. (Think slavery, eg) Due process & uncritically accepting law as an anti-abuse tool will not stem abuse.

The law matters. Due process, too. They create formal structures to assign responsibility. But, to be meaningful & fair, they must be constantly interrogated. That's partly why the media & extra-legal channels of complaint can't be dismissed; they're critical to interrogate law.

There's also the slight problem that, even at its best, the law may not provide the outcomes a victim wants, not least coz the state which nominally deploys it is almost always carceral. It's, rightly, a tool to counter abuse. We need to stop being told it's the best/only tool. 

19 March 2018

Perhaps it's wise not to post in anger though it's sometimes hard to avoid it. 

It isn't easy to avoid noticing that the calls against a person found to have committed abuse can be muted in comparison to those against a person merely accused of it. 

The spectacle merits, I suspect, questions about what drives those supposedly enthusiastic about human rights. It explains how progressive legal change has largely been developed in the wake of non-influential abusive men being targeted. It reveals the difference between the advocacy of human rights as a career choice and as a lifestyle choice. And it is always a choice: whom we choose to pillory, whom we excuse. And the mechanisms we employ in both cases.

Ostensible progressivness and feminism isn't enough. The structures which protect a certain class of abusers, usually rich and apparently 'woke',  deserve to be dismantled. Those who support such structures deserve to be challenged. They may do much good but if what they achieve is largely limited to the policy level which only occasionally calls themselves to account (almost by accident), the manifestation of their version of progressivness is inadequate. 

Desegregation once changed the daily lives of poor white people but left power concentrated in the hands of rich white people who still wield it almost exclusively. Who's paying for our supposed commitment to gender equity today by actually having to practise it? And, more importantly, who isn't?

Addendum: This isn't just about sexual harassment but also other forms of abuse. Consider, for example, the gaslighting, often in the language of social justice, or the tomb-like silence which too often follows complaints of DV or rape depending on who's accused.