Many people are taught to always assume the best in others. Utilizing this principle can be a helpful tool in establishing a sense of trust in a world that can otherwise feel overwhelming and chaotic. Our surroundings feel safer when we are under the impression that the people around us do not have malicious intentions.
As I’ve gotten older, I have grown more and more cynical about my fellow human beings. I am officially sick and tired of the phrases, “They’re not like that,” or, “Oh, that person would never do that.” My automatic response is, why wouldn’t they? Anyone who has ever opened a newspaper or a history book knows that the human race has never had any trouble doing horrible things. This is not to say that every person you come across is maliciously planning your downfall. It is more to say that no one should turn a blind eye to someone’s bad behavior because it goes against the sanctified idea of that person that they have constructed — celebrities and loved ones alike.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, there has been a sharp increase in people sharing their accounts of sexual misconduct and assault. Consequently, people are being forced to come to terms with the fact that someone who they feel close to may be responsible for someone else’s pain and trauma. Despite this focus on accountability, there has been a reluctance from some to criticize accused individuals whom they know or admire. We, as a society, have been fed the lie that if we are to be sexually violated, it will be by a stranger. This person is visibly unsavory and immediately can be identified as a criminal. By this logic, an abuser could never be anything like your “male feminist friend” or your “super chill brother.” The reality is that 80 percent of people aged 12 or over who are sexually assaulted know their attacker. This means that potential abusers are able to blend into our circles of friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances.
Many celebrities who have been accused of sexual harassment and assault have been able to rely on their equally or more powerful friends and family to testify on their behalf to the public. When chairman and CEO of CBS Les Moonves was accused of sexual misconduct in the workplace, many people came to his defense, citing his friendship, decency and morality as reasons to dispel any suspicions about his guilt. When Murray Miller, a writer on the show “Girls,” was accused of sexual assault by actress Aurora Perrineau, the show’s co-runners, Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner, came to his defense. They wrote in a statement, “While our first instinct is to listen to every woman’s story, our insider knowledge of Murray’s situation makes us confident that sadly this accusation is one of the 3 percent of assault cases that are misreported every year.” Dunham also wrote in a tweet, “I believe in a lot of things but the first tenet of my politics is to hold up the people who have held me up, who have filled my world with love.” Dunham has since apologized for her remarks.
In my opinion, people who continue to defend the actions of abusers are wildly audacious. Believing that your experience with someone is the only one that counts is both self-absorbed and dangerous. The fact that someone has been kind and supportive to you does not negate their potential to be manipulative and abusive to someone else. No one should be absolved of their behavior because they wrote a song or directed a film you like, remembered your coffee order at work or is a friend of your significant other.
It can be shocking and demoralizing to learn that someone who you value is capable of hurting someone else. However, it is important to not let your preconceived views of this person blind you to the truth about their behavior. Survivors who come forward with their stories deserve nothing less.
Annick Tabb is a junior double-majoring in political science and English.