Inevitably, when someone reports a predator, manipulator, or otherwise toxic person, there are hordes of people just waiting to pounce and assure everyone of the accused person’s innocence.
“But they’ve never done anything to me,” they’ll exclaim. Or, “They always seemed so nice – I can’t believe it!”
As if their experiences trump those of the people who have been hurt. As if someone’s good deeds makes up for their rotten ones.
It doesn’t work that way. Or, at the very least, it shouldn’t.
But acknowledging that a person can be both awful to one person and kind to another is to acknowledge that people are complicated. That we do not live in a black and white world. It’s much easier to place people in the “good guy” or”bad guy” categories and never think about why they are there or whether they belong.
For me, most people exist in both categories at once. There are very few people I consider wholly good or wholly bad. I can disagree with something they do and still like them. I can love one side of them and not another.
And while that may sound as if I’m constantly keeping score on everyone in my life, I promise I’m not. But I do notice patterns and these patterns have helped me change my mind about people – for good and bad.
Recently, at work, I came up against this situation first hand. An attorney who I’ve always gotten along with, lost his assistant and I volunteered to take her over her job. It didn’t come to pass, but there were people who were surprised that anyone would want to work for him.
Turns out, he’s not well liked by most of the office. And while I knew some of the reasons, I hadn’t been aware of all of them or their extent. Now, I look at him more objectively. I see the cracks in his façade.
Just because I’ve never had a problem working with him doesn’t mean he’s not a problem.
Do I need to repeat that for those in the back? Did you hear me? Your experiences are not the end of the story. Neither are mine. We need to be willing to listen to each other and believe each other.
Sure, we all know people who have made up stories and gotten away with it. But the majority of people do not. And when you choose to invalidate another person’s experience, just because it is different from yours, it makes it that much harder for someone else to trust you or feel safe with you.
And it makes it nearly impossible for the someone else to speak up.
If we’re going to think of ourselves as a safe community – and this applies to all communities, not just kink ones – we have to be a community where people are allowed to speak up.
We have to listen.
We have to avoid victim blaming and gaslighting.
We all – each of us – has to do better.