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Power Dynamics, Abuse, and Violence, Inside Relationships and Inside Our Movements

August 10, 2010

I’ve been planning for a bit to share the link to this important article, by Courtney Desiree Morris and originally published at make/shift (try this link if the first one doesn’t work).I know that some of you have seen it shared previously, as have I, multiple times and from multiple continents and by people inside various movements — because the issue is that important and the problem is that common (even if not known to many of us, even if hidden, even if not talked about). Abuse — emotional, physical, and/or sexual — is a horrendous, debilitating experience for so many people on a personal level, whoever they are, whatever their background is, regardless of whether they ever open up about it, and regardless of whether they’re part of some kind of activist community. But as the in-depth make/shift article points out, there are also problems with the handling and dynamics of abuse that are specific to radical movements and the power structures within them. Inside branches of the animal rights movement at the moment, this is not a theoretical problem; it’s a real one. And the same is true for other movements as well.

Over at Vegans of Color today, Johanna published “Abuse Isn’t Vegan,” related to a situation in a publishing/zine community. I recommend reading her post, as well as clicking on the links within (such as this one); her post is the impetus for my finally publishing this.

I wrote the remarks that follow a few weeks ago, and because of personal emotional exhaustion, I’d been considering not publishing them — instead just posting the link to the first article and letting it speak for itself. But upon seeing Johanna’s post and commentary too and the posts to which she links, I’m going to put the words out there:

It is inexcusable that not only in society at large but also within anti-oppression movements, we continue to place the burden of proof on victims, that we continue to instinctively disbelieve and dismiss the victim because we want to believe the person whom we’ve placed on a pedestal, that we expect that survivor to repeat the traumatic story (or stories) over and over and over again in order to convince us that it is not a lie.

And it is inexcusable for anyone to suggest that we should ignore abuse and violence perpetrated by some members of movements and communities against other members supposedly because to acknowledge that abuse and violence would be “distracting” from the movement’s chief focus, supposedly because what is “personal” is not our concern. In AR specifically, either we are an anti-oppression movement, or we are not.

And I’m going to interrupt the flow of my original commentary here to insert a relevant extract from Johanna’s post. Her remarks are specific to the particular situation she is discussing, but just replace names and “zines” and “zinester” with the names and forms of activism and movements/communities of your choice; the same points, the same problems, the same responses come up everywhere:

People say, have said, will say: who cares, they [do] good [work]! We can’t boycott everybody! Every company[or person] has something bad about them! The good done by these [instances of activism] outweighs any bad done by [Abuser/Activist]! He said he’s sorry! Are we really sure [Victim] is telling the truth? It’s one person’s word against another! (& why, why should we believe women who say they have been abused?) She’s just jealous! It’s just blown-up [movement] drama! Blah blah blah ad nauseum.

It is difficult to come forward about abuse. It is more difficult when the person who has abused you is in a position of power, and you are vulnerable — which is, of course, a dynamic typical in abusive situations. It is more difficult when you know that people will not want to believe you. It is more difficult when the people who are supposed to be your community disbelieve you, dismiss you, and essentially victimize you again. We owe each other more than that; we owe more than that to the people who, despite all this, still find the courage to come forward. If those in an anti-oppression movement are not prepared to defend the vulnerable against the powerful within their own movement, if they are not prepared to do the difficult work of looking at situations objectively, if they are not prepared to defend the victim against the abuser when the victim is even one of their own, then they are hypocrites. And they are not part of an anti-oppression movement.

Finally, an extract from the make/shift article by Morris:

Time and again heterosexual men in radical movements have been allowed to assert their privilege and subordinate others. Despite all that we say to the contrary, the fact is that radical social movements and organizations in the United States have refused to seriously address gender violence [1] as a threat to the survival of our struggles. We’ve treated misogyny, homophobia, and heterosexism as lesser evils—secondary issues—that will eventually take care of themselves or fade into the background once the “real” issues—racism, the police, class inequality, U.S. wars of aggression [or in the AR case, speciesism]—are resolved. There are serious consequences for choosing ignorance. Misogyny and homophobia are central to the reproduction of violence in radical activist communities. Scratch a misogynist and you’ll find a homophobe. Scratch a little deeper and you might find the makings of a future informant (or someone who just destabilizes movements like informants do).

And later:

We must develop a model for collective accountability that truly treats the personal as political and helps us to begin practicing justice in our communities. When we allow women/queer organizers to leave activist spaces and protect people whose violence provoked their departure, we are saying we value these de facto state agents who disrupt the work more than we value people whose labor builds and sustains movements.

There is much more. Read it all here.

The only additional related matter I want to address right now, very briefly, is the focus on male-on-female abuse and violence. This article obviously looks at misogyny and gender violence and related current issues within radical movements specifically, but on the more general subject, I want to point out that it would be a mistake to assume or characterize all abuse in general to be a result only of misogyny, to assume that only men can be abusers, or to assume that abuse is unique to the heterosexual world. Despite the specific focus of this discussion, it’s important that we remember this, to avoid doing to one set of victims/survivors what we’re striving not to do to others — that is, marginalize, dismiss, and question the validity of their experiences, simply because they and/or their abusers do not look like what we would expect. (Indeed, we could have a conversation here regarding the much broader issues surrounding and underlying power dynamics, domination, othering, and so on, but that will have to wait for another time.)

*Image from Wikimedia Commons user Avanduyn

79 Comments
  1. Wendy permalink
    August 10, 2010 3:42 pm

    Thank you, Stephanie.
    I was very disturbed at AR 2010 to hear rumors of about this very issue. Disturbed by the abuse, of course and disturbed by the conference organizers’ (apparent) lack of concern.

    What troubled me as well was the lack of transparency. Someone had told me who the accused was, but nothing was transparent. There was, I felt, a desire to protect the alleged abuser (and I only say “alleged” because honestly I heard this three times removed, I believe, and I don’t know exactly what he was accused of, just abuse in general. Which is bad enough). But when a situation like this arises, and everything is murky, what are we to do? Probably a lot of the people at the conference had no idea what was going on, this was background noise, non-existent to most conference-goers.

    As a survivor of childhood incest, I am very keen on exposing abusers and, if I had my way, shunning them from the community, a real proper religious shunning if the law won’t lock them away. But because abuse is sooo shrouded in secrecy and shame, how do we know exactly what to do? If the accuser is frightened to come forward, how do we proceed? Is getting information second- or third-hand effective? Is it honest?

    Please do not think I am trying to cover up for the abuser! I am not. I am just struggling to know where things fit and how, as a movement, we should deal with it.

    I have certainly noticed the misogyny, I have noticed the very male-centeredness of the AR movement, and most disappointingly I have noticed good (male) friends, and even some female, who dismiss the accuser’s accusations because, like you mention, such abuse is secondary to what animals must be going through (as though there can logically be a split between one kind of abuse and another). That if someone has groupies, for example, he would have no need to rape or sexually abuse someone, which shows a lack of understanding of what rape and sexual assault are about (for isn’t it just as logical for someone with groupies to assume that any woman would willingly f**k him, and if she actually did not want to [gasp!] he might just as soon force her in order to not lose his perceived power?) I have heard men talk down to women, intelligent and activist women; I have heard men patronize the shit out of women. But somehow it’s all “okay” because it’s in the name of animal rights.

    I have long said that above all the other labels one might put on me, vegan/animal rights activist is what most defines me, and that is my priority in terms of activism. But that does not mean I cover my eyes and ears and shut my mouth when I see other types of injustice, and it bothers me that the AR movement does not stand up for women, and that too often women ourselves are prone to not speaking out (I am guilty of this), as if our anger or horror with patronization is not proper to speak of when animals languish in cages somewhere. Of course, the AR movement in the US is made up of US citizens, and too often the movement follows the same patterns of the larger, white-male dominated society. We have grown used to it, we expect it. The men expect it. And when we want to take a stand, we, like you said, are not considering the non-human animals.

    I guess I’m just rambling here, but I want to thank you for posting this. Another good entry!

    • August 10, 2010 10:08 pm

      Thanks for your input, Wendy (side note: so sorry that we didn’t meet at AR!). Things were indeed a little messy at the conference, with a lot of people knowing only vaguely that something was going on (and perhaps a lot more people not knowing anything at all), with a relative handful of people actively trying to figure out how to bring the issues (specific and general) to light. I’ll not say much more here on the specific circumstance to which you refer, given that I too learned secondhand and am unsure about where things currently stand with regard to appropriateness of public dialogue (i.e., the victimized party’s wishes), but yes, others were (are) frustrated by what seemed like overtime effort to protect and defend the abusive party. But at the same time, yes, as you say, it’s difficult to know what to do with what information you have when it has come through a grapevine. But conversations and contemplation about this have made me question/regret how I handled (or didn’t handle) a previous occasion when I was given information about abuse, during a time when I was distracted by my own crap.

      And this:

      “I have long said that above all the other labels one might put on me, vegan/animal rights activist is what most defines me, and that is my priority in terms of activism. But that does not mean I cover my eyes and ears and shut my mouth when I see other types of injustice…”

      Yes, yes, yes, yes. This tendency among many to downplay or dismiss other injustices and wrongs because they aren’t “as bad” as the injustices against animals is so disheartening — but I really do see a shift coming; I do see more and more people lately speaking up about the problems with this attitude and about the interconnectedness of it all. Or maybe I’m just surrounding myself with and listening to more of those people. I don’t know. But I’d like to think the increase is real.

      • Wendy permalink
        August 11, 2010 6:42 am

        I was sorry to have missed you at the conference, too — it was, unfortunately, a rather frazzling experience between some personal stuff and then this drama. Ugh!

        Thank you (again– aren’t we all so polite? :)

        And I questioned even mentioning the issue that happened at AR because I realize I’m talking about it in a guarded, shrouded way, adding to the confusion and mystery. Argh.

        God damn patriarchy, god damn “I was an activist who did something good a million years ago and now no one can touch me” attitude.

        Bleh.

  2. August 10, 2010 4:18 pm

    Brilliant as usual. Thank you! As someone who works in the (human-focused) movement to end gendered violence, and as a vegan, and as someone who advocates connecting the dots, I greatly appreciate this.

    • August 10, 2010 10:12 pm

      Thanks, Ashley, not just for the compliment but also for the work you’re doing. It’s so, so important to have people working on multiple fronts, or even to have people working on one front get the broader issues. I love that there are vegans working within other progressive communities and social justice movements, drawing connections, planting seeds, etc., for the benefit of all.

  3. August 10, 2010 7:36 pm

    I was recently on the periphery of a situation where an abusive woman bullied those around her in addition to acting in other ways that were entirely unethical and disgraceful. But the vast majority of those who knew what was going on or later found out about it didn’t do or say anything because “she has done so much good” (and they’re afraid of her) and they “don’t want to take away from the real issue.”

    Abuse is a real issue. And no amount of other “good work” neutralizes it. There’s no daily reckoning where you put the good things you’ve done in one column and the bad things next to it, and as long as the good things outnumber the bad, the bad ones don’t count.

    • August 10, 2010 10:21 pm

      Ah, yes, you were witness to much ugliness there, weren’t you? I do believe in acknowledging the good a person has done or is capable of, in acknowledging that not all people who do bad things are inherently bad, irredeemable people — that’s a perspective I apply to many circumstances and individuals, including, for example, those who use, abuse, exploit, and kill animals because of an ingrained mindset and learned way of living — but as you say, that’s different from implying that any good just cancels out the bad and that we should turn a blind eye to the bad. If we were to insist on this way of thinking — on saying that a person’s activism for animals means we should ignore the harm he directly, personally inflicts on other individuals — we’d have to give that free pass to others as well, including people who may do wonderful, revolutionary things for humans while abusing animals.

  4. August 11, 2010 2:09 am

    Thank you so much for blogging about this! I don’t understand how some activists think that human rights issues go out the window when we’re discussing animal rights, and sexism, misogyny, racism, and all kinds of abuse and discrimination are acceptable if it advances some short-term animal rights goal. And they are short-term goals, because the ultimate goal of animal liberation can only be accomplished if we are all free of oppression.

  5. August 11, 2010 5:35 am

    Can someone e-mail me and tell me what’s going on? I understand the general points in this post, but I’m in the dark as to specifics. What happened at AR2010?

    • August 11, 2010 8:17 am

      Tracy (and others): In brief, a well-known activist was there amid allegations of assault and abuse against a young woman. And it is apparently not the first such allegation. It did not happen at AR; efforts were being made at AR to address the matter, both specific (to this individual) and general (regarding atmosphere conducive to this). But it wasn’t my intention to start remarking on the details of this situation specifically here. As the posts/articles linked to indicate, for example, this isn’t a one-person problem (even in the world of vegans), and there is a culture and way of thinking that contributes to all this, and I think we can (and need to) have general discussions about this even if/when we aren’t publicly having the specific discussions. That said, if the specific matter starts to be talked about more publicly, I’ll certainly be supportive of that open discussion, but not being in direct contact with the abused person myself and not having updates right now about where things stand (e.g., her comfort with this level of public discussion), I personally don’t yet feel comfortable going into any more than that.

      • August 11, 2010 4:43 pm

        I know this is about the specific situation, Stephanie, that you don’t want to get too into, but it leads me to some conclusions so I will share and hope we can all take the bigger picture from what I say regarding the flip side of this problem, which is a touchier subject to discuss.
        An additional problem is that the accused in this AR case is presumed guilty. More disturbing is that the blogosphere and the AR movement is trying to banish an individual because “someone knows someone who said something happened”. Not a single tangible fact exists (i.e. who, what, where, when). While I agree that this is a most serious issue and that victims should not be further victimized by having to come forward, the string of unknowns makes it inappropriate to presume the guilt of the accused.
        I worry because I feel this has become a witch-hunt. The very same mechanisms that destroy victims are being used to destroy the accused. I hear ad-homonym arguments to support these claims in this case. Things like “he dates young” women are being used to support “he is a sexual abuser.” This is the same as “she has sex with people so she must not have been raped.” It is perhaps more serious in the latter case, but is excusable in neither.
        I had a situation at a different conference earlier this year where the exact thing that happened at AR occurred. In the end it was discovered that the accusations were false. In this case it was verifiable because court documents could be followed. I bothered to look into it but it was too late. The accusation was enough for conference organizers and the speaker was ousted and his reputation and trust with other activists forever tarnished among those who did not care enough to actually follow up with the accusations. The woman admitted the lies and it was found she does the same thing with regularity. However, these facts did not remove the scarlet letter across the accused’s chest, and likely never will.
        As a woman who identifies as a feminist, works in the women’s right movement and teaches women’s studies at a university, I am very confused and frustrated by this situation. I never want to assume or even entertain he idea that a person who has been victimized is lying as my doubt will victimize her or him again. At the same time this blogosphere bashing and pamphlet passing and email slander campaign is a problem in this case.
        I agree with everything in this post as to the severity of abuse within the movement. I also think we need to get smarter about how we handle this. An accusation is not a conviction of guilt. Many of us are distrustful of traditional and institutionalized routes to solving these problems (such as the police), so we should consider having third party arbitrators, ombudsmen and sexual assault counselors at conferences and on call (sort of like a National Lawyers Guild observer at protests). I know this won’t solve the problem, but it is a start.

      • August 11, 2010 5:17 pm

        I didn’t think it appropriate to discuss this one incident here, but I don’t feel like I have much choice now, given these remarks.

        I don’t see the blogosphere as a whole — or the AR movement, for that matter — trying to banish him. There’s a reason that most people can’t figure out what we’re talking about here — it’s not being talked about publicly. Even those people who have the abuser’s name won’t be able to find a public word about it online, no matter how excellent their Internet searching skills.

        And I must admit that I find this remark — “Not a single tangible fact exists (i.e. who, what, where, when)” — really troubling. Who, what, when, and where facts do exist; that not everyone knows those facts doesn’t mean they don’t exist. And if we start going down the road of “make her prove it; where’s her evidence?” we’ll be going down a dangerous, dangerous road.

        What I know, from those to whom she directly disclosed, including how that disclosure came about and how the experience affected her, left me believing in her truthfulness. And others, including those who have long known and admired the abuser but who were able to be objective, have felt the same way. And again, my understanding is that this is not a lone, first-time-ever allegation. But why would other women want to come forward, in this case and in others, if the reception they get is one of “it’s a witch-hunt,” a response that paints him as the victim instead? You say there are no facts supporting the abused, but I’ve seen no facts supporting the accusation that this is a “witch-hunt.” I’m fairly recent to this, so perhaps I haven’t seen and read everything you have, but I’ll also say that I’m a bit floored by the insinuation that the (alleged, if that helps) abuser is the one on the receiving end of efforts to tarnish reputation and by your use of the word “slander” (which doesn’t much sound like you’re on the fence), when I know that there have been clear efforts to isolate and/or discredit victims and their allies.

        I agree that these are sensitive issues and that presuming guilt can be dangerous — and I too once knew someone who was wrongly accused, and it was a terrible thing — but you write this as if those who have come to believe the abused individual in this case did so casually, rather than with a lot of thought and listening and consideration.

      • Denis permalink
        August 11, 2010 6:07 pm

        I think vegina’s response was very considered and balanced and not casual at all. And I am familiar with the original allegations in the referenced situation and have watched over the past year as they’ve been expanded and worsened by people who don’t even know anyone involved.
        I think considering that the movement is subject to government repression it would be wise to remember tactics such as those employed by COINTELPRO to disrupt social movements.
        “And again, my understanding is that this is not a lone, first-time-ever allegation.” This is the thing that keeps coming up in relation to this situation. I’ve heard “pattern of behavior” repeated by people who don’t know anyone directly related. It would be very easy for a reasonably intelligent government agent to look at this developing situation and start making anonymous accusations to start removing activists credibility. I’m not saying that’s what’s happening, but it is important to consider.
        I am also aware of other situations where accusations are taken at face value and people are assumed guilty without evidence. That’s how grand juries operate. That’s how our justic system is treating people accused of terrorism. Supposedly that’s not what our movement is about either. And criticizing vegina for attempting to bring some balance (from a feminist perspective no less) seems counterproductive if the real goal is improving the effectiveness of the movement and keeping people safe, both from abuse and possible attempts to discredit and harm reputations for personal vendettas or government repression. Keeping people safe from both is important, and that’s all that was being pointed out in the comment.

      • August 11, 2010 7:29 pm

        Denis, I believe you misinterpreted my response to Vegina. I responded to specific remarks and insinuations; it wasn’t my intention to criticize her for “attempting to bring balance.” And I didn’t mean to suggest that her comment was “casual” — I think you misread; I said that her remarks implied that those who believed the abused did so casually, without consideration.

        I may not know all the women who over time have submitted allegations myself, but I do trust the judgment of those to whom they’ve disclosed. And I think it’s also wise to remember how abusers operate — turning the blame around on and discrediting their victims, whether through questioning their mental state or through labeling them jealous and vindictive or, in circumstances such as this, through accusing them of being infiltrators/disruptors.

        And because the very nature of abuse is such that victims often come to internalize the abuse, believing the abuser’s insistence that the abuse is the victim’s fault or not as bad as the victim thinks; and because of the very nature of situations in which one person is in a position of power and admiration (with many defenders) and the other is more vulnerable; and because of the very damage caused by the abuse — and the further damage and revictimization that can result if the abused person comes forward — it is not at all surprising that many victims in cases of abuse do not speak out publicly. It can be a lose-lose situation for them.

        I mean, even look at this thread that I tried to stop from becoming about this one incident. Who would want this? How many just can’t bring themselves to risk the painful, public, long-term experience of people doubting them and talking about them and making the other person the victim, while they are trying to recover from the abuse itself?

        I believe in the good intentions behind the comments here, but we’re obviously coming from different perspectives. And this conversation didn’t even need to start happening here: My remarks about this one situation being part of a broader issue that needs to be addressed were sincere. This is not an isolated situation, not currently and not in the broader picture. I think we can and should be talking about the broader and underlying problems even if the abused in a particular situation isn’t yet ready to have her situation dissected so publicly.

  6. Denis permalink
    August 11, 2010 7:56 pm

    I understand the nature of abuse. I was the victim of prolonged emotional abuse as a child. I was the child of an alcoholic with major rage issues. I was socially isolated and an only child. So my perspective is that of a victim.
    It also happens to be that of someone who believes that it is wrong to attack people on the basis of what someone else told you. And if you’re going to ruin someone’s reputation and life, I think you had better know the facts firsthand. If there was abuse, bringing charges would have led to a lot less drama than has been generated by this incident.
    To get back to the original issue, I think it is also important to remember that there is a difference, as far as the movement is concerned, between someone who acts abusively in meetings and organizing (which is what the article you linked to discusses) and someone who is simply a jerk in a relationship. I totally agree that the former must be confronted and dealt with by the group and that whatever “good they do” is not really at issue. But if someone is just a bad girlfriend or boyfriend, minus physical abuse of course, then the advice should be – don’t date that person.
    In this particular case (back to that), that seems to be the issue. I am not aware of any allegations that abusive behavior was exhibited within the context of group or movement dynamics. The original allegations also did not include any physical abuse, as far as I understand. Again, as someone whose life has been marked by the emotional effects of non-physical abuse, I understand it is significant. But unless you were there, you really don’t know what happened. The person who has been accused in this situation has made multiple attempts to discuss the issue, including with those who were handing out flyers at AR. And I’m sure he’d talk to you about it if you called or emailed. But if there’s no way you’d believe him, no matter what he said, then does it matter? How do you evaluate these situations? Do you always believe the accuser? Isn’t that just as bad as always believing the accused?

    • August 11, 2010 8:15 pm

      I know there’s no way I can say this without sounding dismissive, even though I really don’t mean it to be, but I truly can’t carry on this dialogue much more tonight because I have a deadline looming this week/end. I will say, quickly, a couple things:

      1. I fail to see how I was “ruin[ing] someone’s reputation and life” with this post. I didn’t make the post about any specific individuals, didn’t name any names, and have tried to open a broader dialogue. Those defending the particular individual are the ones who dramatically steered this into a thread about him and the abused.

      2. “If there was abuse, bringing charges would have led to a lot less drama than has been generated by this incident.” I honestly don’t even know what this means. Putting aside for a moment the chances of someone being held legally accountable for emotional abuse, if that’s what we’re talking about, I don’t see how there would have been “less drama” regardless, once the allegations were out there for people to dissect and disagree over.

      3. We seem to still differ on some other things, including on how seriously emotional abuse should be taken. I don’t believe that whether the abusiveness takes place in a personal relationship or in activism-related situations dictates whether community members should care and step up. If a friend were physically beating his girlfriend, would you say, “Not my business; she just shouldn’t date him”? Of course not. So the implication is that emotional abuse is inherently less serious, when in reality emotional abuse can be every bit as debilitating as — and sometimes more than — physical abuse, including because of people’s dismissiveness of it and its terrible effects. Language such as “simply a jerk” and “just a bad girlfriend or boyfriend” is terribly dismissive of how bad emotional abuse can be and what it can do to a person. (Also, FWIW, though I won’t go back and reread now, my recollection is that the article did refer to abusiveness in personal relationships as well.)

      • Denis permalink
        August 11, 2010 9:35 pm

        I’ll quickly reply to this and the below comment, but probably leave it at that. Just to be clear, I am 100% against violence – physical or emotional. But I think that accusing someone of something with no way for them to prove their innocence can be a form of violence too.

        “I fail to see how I was “ruin[ing] someone’s reputation and life” with this post.”
        The sentence said that if you’re going to accuse someone of something you should have the facts before you ruin their reputation. I was speaking hypothetically, not about you in the specific. Sorry if that was confusing.

        “Those defending the particular individual are the ones who dramatically steered this into a thread about him and the abused.”
        I don’t know if it’s fair to say that we’re defending the individual as much as defending the concept of due process. This is something we decry the government for ignoring and we do the same at our own peril. Also, these abstract conversations have real life consequences, so I think it’s important to discuss them.

        ““If there was abuse, bringing charges would have led to a lot less drama than has been generated by this incident.” I honestly don’t even know what this means.”
        I’m only peripherally aware of this situation, but even from that vantage point I’ve heard a lot of gossip, seen a physical attack against the accused in an alley, had several female friends of mine accosted by people who chastised them very aggressively for spending time with the accused, and heard from other multiple friends who were verbally attacked for refusing to sign a letter calling for the accused to be ejected from the AR Conference.

        “Language such as “simply a jerk” and “just a bad girlfriend or boyfriend” is terribly dismissive of how bad emotional abuse can be and what it can do to a person.”
        The language was intentional. It’s not dismissive. Someone who is a pathologically emotionally abusive individual is different from someone who is simply a jerk or a bad boyfriend. And it is a substantive difference. Are you sure of which is true in this case?

  7. Wendy permalink
    August 11, 2010 8:08 pm

    “I think it is also important to remember that there is a difference, as far as the movement is concerned, between someone who acts abusively in meetings and organizing (which is what the article you linked to discusses) and someone who is simply a jerk in a relationship”

    Well, he sure as hell was arrogant in the two settings where I observed him interacting with people, and no, that does not equate to abuse. But it is not that farfetched for me to believe after witnessing his interactions and hearing him talk. Yes, you’re right — getting information third-hand does not mean fact; but I was in a session with the person who had been confessed to and I believe she knew what she was talking about, and I do not believe she would have subjected herself to the extra work involved in dealing with an issue (seemingly) so far removed from animal rights if she didn’t trust what the accuser said.

    I do apologize for opening this particular can of shit; it is hard to know when to be quiet, because, of course, that is what abusers like. They like the confusion, they like the quiet.

    “The original allegations also did not include any physical abuse, as far as I understand.”

    You just said you’re a victim of prolonged emotional abuse (which I’m sorry for.) How can you suggest if no physical abuse is involved there is no abuse?

    “Do you always believe the accuser? Isn’t that just as bad as always believing the accused?”

    Almost always, yes; and no. Because the dynamics of abuse are set up to, as Stephanie pointed out, discredit the abused.

    • Denis permalink
      August 11, 2010 9:37 pm

      Just to be clear, I am 100% against violence – physical or emotional. But I think that accusing someone of something with no way for them to prove their innocence can be a form of violence too.

      “Well, he sure as hell was arrogant in the two settings where I observed him interacting with people, and no, that does not equate to abuse. But it is not that farfetched for me to believe after witnessing his interactions and hearing him talk.”
      It seems that some people think this individual is arrogant. They don’t like him. And this is a great opportunity to have something beside their personal opinion to use against him. “It’s not farfetched to believe”… this sounds like a white jury member in a Southern rape case. Which was a very substantive point brought up by Vegina. This is the same kind of thinking that leads to, “Why did she go to his hotel room if she didn’t want sex? Just look at her behavior. She must be guilty.” I would hope that progressives can move beyond this kind of thinking even when it involves someone they personally dislike.

      “It is hard to know when to be quiet, because, of course, that is what abusers like.”
      This particular individual has taken every opportunity to discuss the allegations, including talking to the person handing out flyers at the conference for almost three hours. And as I said above, I’m sure he’d discuss them with you if you want to contact him.

      ““The original allegations also did not include any physical abuse, as far as I understand.”
      You just said you’re a victim of prolonged emotional abuse (which I’m sorry for.) How can you suggest if no physical abuse is involved there is no abuse?”
      The sentence following that one was – “Again, as someone whose life has been marked by the emotional effects of non-physical abuse, I understand it is significant.”

      ““Do you always believe the accuser? Isn’t that just as bad as always believing the accused?”
      Almost always, yes; and no. Because the dynamics of abuse are set up to, as Stephanie pointed out, discredit the abused.”
      Hm… I don’t know how to address this. I simply don’t think this is just. Unless you don’t think people are individuals who should not be held responsible for others actions. The SHAC7 were put in prison because the dynamics of resistance in that campaign led some people to break the law of their own accord. And the SHAC7 took the fall for it even though they did nothing illegal and did not direct people to take those actions. That’s unjust.

      • Wendy permalink
        August 12, 2010 1:06 pm

        “But I think that accusing someone of something with no way for them to prove their innocence can be a form of violence too.”

        The other word for that is guilt. If you can’t prove you’re innocent, you’re guilty. If I had been accused of something like this, I would post to every blog, every AR-related website, talk to every person I could until I was exhausted to let them know I AM INNOCENT.

        Granted, I am not in the thick of things, so maybe he’s doing that, but I sure have not seen or heard anything about it beyond this blog post.

        “And this is a great opportunity to have something beside their personal opinion to use against him.”

        Oh please. I sent him assistance after a legal situation occurred. I had never met him, but knowing what kind of activist he was/is, never speculating for a MOMENT that anyone in the AR movement could do such a thing (wishful thinking, esp after the crap went down with another dude several years ago), I met him at the conference, very briefly, was rather disappointed in him, went on my way and then heard about this incident. And wait, why am I defending myself again? Do you remember how hard it was to tell someone about your abuse? Maybe you weren’t in a situation where people liked your abuser (nobody liked my abuser, either, so I was very very lucky to not have to deal with this kind of bullshit disbelief: “but he’s such a pillar of the community! He would never…”).

        The comparison between the SHAC 7 and this character just seems so way off. SHAC 7 took responsibility for something (no matter how “just,” though I guess they were prepared for the possibility, knowing what they were doing. Or maybe they were not). This guy’s problem seems to be taking responsibility for nothing. Big difference.

      • August 12, 2010 1:21 pm

        Though we agree on many things, Wendy, I think we have to be really careful about some generalizations, including this: “If you can’t prove you’re innocent, you’re guilty.” I don’t think that’s at all true (or fair). And to be clear, I’m not referring to the matter being discussed, but to that idea in general. There are other points here where I think we need to be careful or where we disagree as well. I, for one, *don’t* want to see accused persons randomly showing up all over the Internet without provocation, proclaiming (spamming) their innocence and trying to discredit the accuser. I know that in the more private venues where this discussion has taken place, and in in-person conversations, he has indeed defended himself, and knowing the method by which he’s done that, I have no desire to see that replicated here or elsewhere, to see the woman at the center of this (or others) put through that.

    • August 11, 2010 9:38 pm

      “Do you always believe the accuser? Isn’t that just as bad as always believing the accused?”

      “Almost always, yes; and no. Because the dynamics of abuse are set up to, as Stephanie pointed out, discredit the abused.”

      I’m with Wendy.

      Women who accuse men of emotional, physical, and/or (especially) sexual abuse (and I include all here b/c it’s not clear to me which are involved in this specific case) are, more often than not, vilified: accused of lying; assumed to be jealous, jilted ex-lovers; called all sorts of vile names; have their own sexuality and sexual history called into question (i.e., a woman cannot be raped b/c she – gasp! – likes sex); dismissed as crazy, hysterical, or in need of mental help; told that she misinterpreted the man’s actions or intentions; convinced that the abuse was her fault; etc., etc. etc. The notion that women “make up” allegations of abuse in order to “get back” at men is rape apologism, full-stop. It’s mostly sexist, victim-blaming bullshit that’s completely removed from reality.

      This doesn’t mean that 100% of abuse allegations are true; of course *some* men are falsely accused. What this means is that, practically speaking, the *only* thing most women have to gain from false accusations is negative attention. Women who bring abuse accusations against men – no matter how much evidence they have behind them (*cough*Mel Gibson*cough*) – almost always see the situation blow up in their faces (just look at how this thread is progressing, even though it did not start at the victim’s behest!). Some women, for whatever sick, fucked up reason – emotional or mental dysfunction, for example – seek out attention, even negative attention. Most women do not. Most abuse victims never come forward because the public trial (whether legal or in the court of public opinion) which ensues brings them not justice, but further victimization. The fact that the victim in this case hasn’t been vocal enough that every reader in the audience knows what’s going on is perhaps a testament to this. If she was really trying to ruin the accused’s life, wouldn’t she have already popped up in this comment thread to “out” him?

      In cases of abuse, I tend to believe the accuser over the accused (unless I have credible evidence that the accuser is lying) because, given the sexist, patriarchal, rape culture society in which we live, it’s far more likely that she’s telling the truth than not.

      • Denis permalink
        August 11, 2010 9:55 pm

        As far as rape goes, I totally agree with you. There is no upside to making an accusation. My question was re: abuse or abusive behavior. The case we’re discussing was not about sexual or physical abuse. Sometimes there can be clear cut abusive behavior. Sometimes it can come down to the perspective of the individuals involved in a personal argument. But the arguments you present don’t necessarily play out the same way in the case of say, a bad break-up where someone just wishes to hurt the other person emotionally or strike out somehow or move past a horrible personal experience. Some people who know both individuals way better than I do have come to this conclusion. And they did not arrive at it casually as was suggested above. I witnessed a great deal of internal struggle and questioning of people involved by these individuals, several of whom are self-identified feminists.
        Anyway, just wanted to say I agree with you re: rape accusations.

      • Wendy permalink
        August 12, 2010 1:07 pm

        Perfectly said. Thank you.

      • Wendy permalink
        August 12, 2010 1:32 pm

        Uck, well I had no idea about his self-defense, actually. From what you say it sounds pretty awful, and I can see how that would be nauseating.

        “, I think we have to be really careful about some generalizations, including this: “If you can’t prove you’re innocent, you’re guilty.” I don’t think that’s at all true (or fair). And to be clear, I’m not referring to the matter being discussed, but to that idea in general.”

        I guess I am talking about abuse situations more specifically. It may not be fair or just, but I often feel that way. Just another thing to work on, I guess, hearing both sides, but I find that too often the abuser (accused)’s side of things makes me want to both retch and break something.

  8. Deb permalink
    August 11, 2010 8:23 pm

    Thanks for writing about this Stephanie.

    One thing is clear is that people don’t want to believe this could be true in the ar movement. Even that the discussion becomes about one specific case rather than the issue as a whole is a symptom of the bigger issue.

    Face it folks, believe in this one specific (if unspecified) example or not and you still have to believe it exists overall in the movement.

    Could the conversation be about how we, as individuals, handle situations where serious accusations are made against people we respected, especially when people we know well and trust have been burdened with the details? (We don’t all need the intimate details, I hope.)

    Not every survivor is going to go to the police (ironic that people in the ar movement don’t understand that one) and even when there is irrefutable evidence, the survivor and supporters often face vile accusations. Don’t we face this every day as advocates, face people who refuse to trust in things as direct as undercover footage? Surely we understand quite well that facts and proof do not equal clarity and consensus.

    The bottom line is that abuse exists throughout society, and the AR movement is not immune. No movement is. No group or sub population is. Why not think about what we can do to create safe places, educate people on what abuse looks like and the common ways the abusers react, and how we can support the survivors?

  9. Faith Gundran permalink
    August 12, 2010 2:15 am

    You wanna talk about this? Let’s talk. I gave Denis the information about PETER YOUNG two months ago, so if he’s known about it for a year, that’s news to me. I asked that he give the survivor the opportunity to talk about it in person and he denied her that opportunity, even though they live in the same town and met each other when they were in my city. But he doesn’t wanna make waves because he has films to promote. COINTELPRO, huh? Let’s talk dangerous. Let’s talk about accusing someone of being a snitch to get them to shut up about abuse. That’s right folks, when she thought she could start putting all of this all behind her, Peter put those implications out there. And the “evidence” of her “suspicious behavior” is absolutely absurd. Example! He said, “she left graffiti on the front of my house” when in reality, she wrote “real activists don’t sign t-shirts” in dust on his mailbox.

    It’s shocking that someone who claims to be concerned about our security culture would suggest that she should have brought charges against him. She has been advised by a lawyer not to speak about this publicly for security reasons and one of Peter’s lawyers sent her a cease and desist. That’s not the first time he’s had a lawyer send a cease and desist to a female activist, by the way. And the other women who have been abused by him have names and faces. Just because they haven’t gone public doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

    So Peter’s “simply a jerk in a relationship,” huh? I explained to Denis that she lost 20 pounds due to Peter’s neglect, and I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to call that a form of physical abuse. I also told Denis he was sexually abusive, though I did not give details.

    For the record, I was on good terms with Peter before I heard this woman’s story. It was only a week or so before then that I hung out with him and I was careful to look into the situation with an open mind. I spoke with people who knew him well until I was convinced that this kind of behavior was in line with his character. He has the reputation of a narcissist who preys on, manipulates, and controls young women. I also spoke with Peter directly and I caught him blatantly manipulating facts. I even spoke with the people he had in line to back his story. Guess what? Not one of them had any reason to believe she’s a snitch.

    Peter has admitted to abusive behavior and he’s been given several opportunities to address those behaviors but he’s refused. When offered an unbiased mediation with a respected activist, he asked, “why does it have to go that far?” When it was suggested that he seek therapy, he said it was too expensive. When he was told to read books, he read part of Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men and said he didn’t find it helpful.

    There is no “right way” to handle this situation but I’ve tried my damndest.

    • Denis permalink
      August 12, 2010 10:55 am

      I can understand the frustration here. I think we can all agree that we hate violence and violent behavior and we feel passionately about stopping it. I’m truly sorry if my comments led someone to believe I think abuse isn’t serious or that victims shouldn’t be supported. I fully believe those things. And some of my comments, which were meant to be general, are being incorrectly applied to this specific situation. I apologize if that was confusing. I also think a few things have been mischaracterized. We didn’t deny anyone the opportunity to talk to us in person. The person in question was not asking us. We were being asked by someone who knew her at that point only for a very short period of time and only in relation to this incident and it wasn’t in any way clear to us that the person in question actually wanted to discuss the incident with us. I’m sorry if that wasn’t made clear. If she does want that, we’re always available. It’s easy to find us.
      I only commented on here to support vegina’s comment as it seemed what she had said was being misread or misinterpreted. And then to reply to what I felt were misreadings or misinterpretations of my comment. I think we’re all concerned with a way of being just and compassionate, hopefully to everyone. I hope we’re all concerned with being more just than the current legal system which has been used both to revictimize victims and to remove people’s right to defend themselves adequately. I believe this concern can be balanced with totally legitimate and needed concern for the rights of victims. I think this is what was at the heart of vegina’s initial comment, which is why I supported it. Vegina’s comment below, reiterating the idea of some kind of panel to deal with these accusations may be what’s needed. I hope someone can figure out a way to put it together.

      • Faith Gundran permalink
        August 12, 2010 4:12 pm

        It’s obvious that most of your comments were in regards to Peter.

        As I explained to you before, I met the survivor almost a year ago and though we didn’t have a lot of contact after that, we did stay in touch. When you said you wanted to speak with him before making any judgements, I said that she was willing to tell you her experience in person and I offered to give you her phone number. In a later conversation with your friend (I will omit her name since she’s not on this thread), she asked that I speak with someone who knew the survivor and had a different take on the situation. I told her to give this person my contact information and again, I asked that you both speak with the survivor so you could get a first-hand account.

        Your friend brought this subject up to me at Let Live and as I was describing my conversation with Peter, he walked in the room and she insisted that we end the conversation right then. In Seattle, when the survivor was in the same room with us, I asked your friend to discuss it before leaving town, and she promised to call me the next day. She didn’t.

        I would have pushed harder had I known that you would publicly defend him but your friend made it clear that you (as a team) would not take a public stance against him because of your next project, so it seemed a bit futile. The survivor was afraid that if she approached you about it directly that it would look like she had an agenda. It really shouldn’t be up to her to track you down.

    • Judith permalink
      February 4, 2011 5:40 pm

      Does anyone know if there’s a fund so that Peter can hire an attorney and sue these parties for slander? I’d love to give generously.

  10. August 12, 2010 3:59 am

    Stephanie, it took a lot of courage to write this, thank you. It was difficult for me to read, as I’m sure it was for many other women. The comments were even more difficult to wade through.

    As a vegan AND a feminist, among many other things, the misogyny and rampant exploitation and violence in the AR community breaks my heart and on occasion can completely immobilize me.

    In any community the first response to any sort of sexual misconduct accusation is to defend the man. Always.

    I would like to think that in more ‘progressive’ communities that would not be the case, but sadly it is. People do not want to believe that sort of thing can happen amongst their friends and they will do everything possible to bury their heads in the sand.

    Calling out the perpetrators, demanding action be taken, etc, etc, is a terrifying thing to do, especially when a woman knows this is how she will be treated, but hopefully we will always be courageous enough to do so. And maybe someday we will have supporters who will make it a safe and easier option.

  11. August 12, 2010 4:48 am

    In response to all of this I would like to point out that this sort of drama is actually the sort of thing that makes it difficult and unsafe for women to come forward. I know that this post didn’t talk about a specific incident, but all the blogs, facebook posts, emails and letters I have received regarding this incident were almost never from the accusers or from someone speaking on their behalf. Rather, in all but one instance (in which the accuser was not in any way making an accusation of sexual abuse), someone twice removed (someone who knows someone who knows a victim) made the accusation public. If I am at any point a victim of someone in the movement, and this is the circus that is generated, I am going to be very very hesitant to come forward.
    I made the comment in my earlier post that our energies need to be spent thinking of ways to deal with this in the movement so that women can be safe and we don’t have ad homonym arguments of guilt, such as Wendy’s comment above, where she suggests that she thinks this person is arrogant and so is likely an abusive person.
    Above, I made the following suggestion: “Many of us are distrustful of traditional and institutionalized routes to solving these problems (such as the police), so we should consider having third party arbitrators, ombudsmen and sexual assault counselors at conferences and on call (sort of like a National Lawyers Guild observer at protests). I know this won’t solve the problem, but it is a start.” No one followed up on this (I don’t think…these comments are a lot to sift through).
    If we are truly concerned about the state of abuse in the movement then these are the conversations we need to be having. And I do think this was a big part of the original post. So thank you, Stephanie.
    But most people seem to just like the drama of this all. I approached one of the spearheads of this particular campaign to speak *privately* about the concerns I have voiced on this page. I made the suggestion above and indicated I was willing to work on this for future animal rights events but she was disinterested in following up with this. I am frustrated because the drama of this situation is creating an unhealthy space for everyone. The accusers/victims are being spoken for third hand, so far removed that their wishes cannot be known. The accused has no voice and no chance to even try to prove his innocence (this reinforces a system where voices are silenced and guilt is presumed, which is the same experience victims typically have). The commotion created makes it difficult for other victims to feel safe confiding or confronting or revealing their abuse or abuser for fear it will become a public debacle. And, most importantly, we have stopped talking about how to actually help women and make this movement a safe space for everyone.

    • August 12, 2010 7:50 am

      And I would suggest that much of the commotion is being caused by the abuser and his defenders rather than the other way around, that in this particular case, this is another incident of turning things around on the victim. An abuser taking ownership of his behavior, seeking therapy, going through an objective accountability or transformative justice process, etc. wouldn’t lead to this kind of thread — an abuser instead lashing out and actively trying to discredit the accuser over the course of months; sending friends out to disrupt and make allegations in even nonspecific, broad discussions; and repeatedly telling people that her public silence is proof that she’s lying, while employing lawyers and knowing that her speaking out could put her at legal risk — that creates the drama. People not only circling the wagons around an abuser but also firing out in the direction of anyone who dares approach the circle (or discussions of circles in general) and using the opportunity to refer to witch-hunts and imply that she is making it up or, worse, is some kind of government-supplied disruptor — that creates the drama.

      @Vegina: You wrote this: ” so we should consider having third party arbitrators, ombudsmen and sexual assault counselors at conferences and on call (sort of like a National Lawyers Guild observer at protests). I know this won’t solve the problem, but it is a start.” I certainly don’t disagree with this. But you imply that because no one has responded to that in this thread, that’s proof that people are just interested in the personal drama. Not true. But one, it’s not possible to respond to everything being said in this thread, and two, I don’t think it’s fair to express surprise that when you spent so much of your comment focused on this particular incident and teetering on the edge of outright defending the abuser, that’s where the conversation went. I would have been thrilled to continue or redirect the thread as one discussing solutions and ways of improving our atmosphere if the comment had focused mostly on that; it didn’t. You started with “I know this is about the specific situation, Stephanie, that you don’t want to get too into” but proceeded to go there anyway and made insinuations (witch-hunt, slander, making it up) that mandated a response on the specific matter. I wasn’t comfortable getting into the details of this situation until I was both in more direct contact with the abused (which I am now) and knew her position on and level of comfort with public discourse because I *knew* a thread like this (and worse) could happen, putting her back in the position of having to defend herself. But his supporters removed that choice.

      I know that this is all complicated, but a lot of what I’m seeing here is exactly what I’m troubled by and trying to talk about in general. Running through some of these responses is not a tone of objectivity and neutrality, but one — whether conscious or not — of falling on the side of believing the abuser and doubting and discrediting and shaming and silencing not only the abuser[edit: abused--that was a typo], but also those who would support her. These responses of doubt and references to slander and witch-hunts and to her being a snitch and so on and so on are exactly what women thinking about coming forward don’t need to see.

  12. August 12, 2010 8:56 am

    If we don’t concede from the first moment that “we” (activists) bring the prevailing standards, in which we are all implicated, with us “through the door” and into our advocacy circles, we are presuming a manifestly false conception of who “we” are. I am implicated in the patriarchy in which I exist; unconsciously or consciously, I carry those mores, cultural habits, and assumptions with me wherever I go. As someone who views “prejudice” as THE problem, I try to counter that patriarchy-in-me, but it, inevitably, seeps out. I hasten to add that women carry the patriarchy-in-them everywhere they go as well. The same is true with race and class biases. To assume otherwise is to buy the liberal myth about “free agency” and “choice”.

    The only way, then, to counter this is through open dialogue. Shifting the burden onto a survivor is a telling example of a break-down in honest self-reflection, and the winning-out of privilege (that is, patriarchy). Likewise with “neutral” ways to address an accusation; it is NEVER “neutral”, that is a liberal myth and forgets that women and men, even in anti-oppression circles, exist in a prevailing asymmetric power structure, with men on top.

    This is a break-down of honesty, and it is all the more troubling because honest self-reflection, presumably, brought “us” into these advocacy circles in the first place. We should countenance dialogue, no doubt, but we shouldn’t elide the power structure that that dialogue always-already operates within.

  13. johanna permalink
    August 12, 2010 12:21 pm

    Thanks for this post, Stephanie.

    It is so disheartening & discouraging to see the same sort of “but how do we KNOW? we can’t have a witchhunt here! where are the FACTS?” thing going on in the comments that happens all the time.

  14. Faith Gundran permalink
    August 12, 2010 2:16 pm

    Vegina did contact me at the request of “a group of people” (Peter, I’m sure) to advise me to handle this situation privately, perhaps with “third party arbitrators, ombudsmen and sexual assault counselors at conferences and on call.” Indeed, I asked the AR conference organizers to adopt a safe space policy and have rape crisis counselors on hand, and the person that Peter had a conversation with at the conference has been preparing to approach him with yet another chance to enter into an accountability process. I had no intention of making this more public than it already was but the comments made by Denis and Vegina couldn’t go unanswered.

    During our conversation, Vegina told me that Peter spoke to her extensively about the survivor in this case and not once did he suggest that she works for the government. She wasn’t even aware that Peter snitch-jacketed her several months ago. Huh.

    Let me assure you all that I’m in close contact with the survivor, and the majority of people who have spoken out about this have, in fact, talked with her at length. So let’s stop dismissing everything as “someone who knows someone who knows a victim.”

    Peter doesn’t have a voice? He’s a “rockstar activist” with a blog and platforms at conferences and fans around the world. If he wants to say something, people will listen. Yeah, I’m sure he’ll be willing to speak with anyone in private about this and why not? He’s a master manipulator. He tried to convince me that he was the victim in this case but instead of taking his word for it, I dug deeper. It saddens me that he has others so convinced that they’re willing to publicly defend him, without so much as speaking to the survivor.

    Of course, this issue is bigger than Peter Young. He is not the only abusive male in the AR community, and I’m glad to see there are people who want to talk about this and I hope we can build a support system so that others who have experienced abuse feel safe coming forward. Clearly we have some work to do.

    • August 12, 2010 2:30 pm

      I don’t think you are accurately portraying our conversation, but that is fine. My experiences go beyond this one case and the accusations do not revolve around one person. And bring up this one person on this blog like this is not fair to her. If she wishes to be anonymous don’t mention specifics about her experiences. AND I don’t think she is the person even raising the sexual assault issue so she is being doublly misrepresented her. AND everything that got me involved in this was not him, but letters and emails form “friends of friends” being covertly passed to me. That is why I started looking in to this all.
      And let me highlight again, I think that the issue we need to focus on how to have a safe movement.

      In regard to:
      “I’m glad to see there are people who want to talk about this and I hope we can build a support system so that others who have experienced abuse feel safe coming forward. Clearly we have some work to do.”
      Thank you for this comment. I totally agree. Best thing I have heard all day.

    • Judith permalink
      February 4, 2011 5:14 pm

      Damn! I had no idea there was so much spice at the Animal Rights Conferences. I assumed they were just mundane affairs that kept to the subject of animal abuse. If I survive the flight to Denver and back next week, I’ll definitely try to make it down to Long Beach this April!

    • Judith permalink
      February 5, 2011 2:12 pm

      Could the term “survivor” be replaced with something more appropriate like “my friend” or “the other party” or “the friend of the person I’m accusing”? You make it sound like she was airlifted out of the Andes at high altitude.

  15. August 12, 2010 2:20 pm

    That is not what is going on here and I think you need to look at some of these comments more critically. I never said, “make her prove it.” I am suggesting we not equate accusations with guilt in a public forum paralleling a tribunal. In this instance that is being discussed specifically I have very specific feelings. I have been receiving letters from victims/accusers, people who know victims/accusers, people who know people who know victims/accusers and the accused for over a year. I am not going to tell you what I think about that situation.

    What I am going to say is that this is not a good way to go about this. This is creating an unsafe situation for everyone, especially anyone who may be a victim of someone else in the movement. The way this is being handled is not feminist. It is using the same victim blaming tactics that have been used to subdue victims of sexual abuse for years. It sets up a precedent that any accusation of abuse is the same as conviction. This leads to mistrust among activists and an unsafe environment for victims. If we want to take victims’ claims seriously and respectfully, let’s do that. This is not doing that. This is making a spectacle, where people point fingers, try to “guess the victim,” trash talk, spread rumors, engage in character assassinations of everyone (victims, accusers, accused, supporters on each side).

    Clearly this perspective is not appreciated here because it plays on everyone’s fear of victim blaming. I have done no such thing. I am bringing forward real feminist issues in the face of everyone’s desire to believe anything they hear came form a victim.

    [I am going to share a bit of myself, not as a way to get street cred but to explain how on your side i am. Skip this paragraph if you don't care...] Most women have been victims of sexual abuse. I have and most of you probably have. That makes it even more scary for me to say these things to you, becasue I know the pain that comes with this. The inability to speak. The lack of support. People who love you assuming you are lying because that is easier to deal with, or that is “just the way women are.” The isolation in the healing process. The fear and possibility that you will never heal. Future lovers and friends doubting your experience or criticizing how you handled it in order to survive the aftermath. If we come forward we are accused of lying, called sluts, ignored and further abused. If we don’t “prosecute” we are called weak and blamed for any future victimization our perpetrator causes. Victims can never win and most of us are likely victims. I am with you. I am with you all in terms of the animal rights movement as well. I witness abuse and sexism and the silencing of women in the animal rights movement. One example I have that encapsulates this all is that a man I loved with all my heart couldn’t ever find it in his heart to truly love or accept or support me and my work because my feminism seemed to “hurt” the movement. He also told me that never coming forward after being sexually assaulted made me culpable for any rape this man enacted in the future. Again,an example of the confusing double standards we are facing and the lose-lose situation we are up against. I so completely get this! As someone who works as an activist and professionally in the movement, I have had my credibility challenged at conferences and in the work setting becasue I am a feminist. As a feminist, I have had my credibility and work challenged becasue I care about the “animal issue.” I think that is bullshit. Our oppressions are tied and mutually reinforcing and neither takes precedence over the other. An animal rights movement that does not protect women is a failed movement. I think we have claims and I think we need to speak up for women. I agree with everyone on all those things. I think Stephanie’s points in her post are important and need to be talked about and taken seriously. I do not, however, think that claims of abuse should be handled as they have been in this case. This is the second time this year I have witnessed something like this and it has really made me think long and hard about the issue. in both cases I knew, in some capacity, the accused, which may be the only reason I gave it much thought. But I am glad I did because my conclusions support a safer environment for everyone (at least that is what I think).

    Regardless of the individual’s guilt in this instance, this type of tribunal behavior has no place in the animal rights movements or women’s movements. Sexism in the animal rights movement and sexual assault needs to be treated seriously as it is a real and serious and growing issue in this movement. These public witch hunt tactics do exactly the opposite. Victims need a voice and the accused should not be presumed guilty. This public tribunal does neither, it makes an accusation the same as a guilty verdict and it makes the ability to come forward or to heal after a sexual assault much more difficult.

    • August 12, 2010 2:56 pm

      Again, the accusations about “public tribunal” and “public witch hunts” are mind-blowing to me, given that his friends are the ones who steered this thread — on a general post, with a thread I’d specifically tried to stop from going this way — so sharply into a conversation about this specific situation. Vegina, you’re the one who included remarks about “slander” and “witch-hunts” and the like as your opening into this conversation, who started going into details about this matter when I’d already expressed a desire not to go any further with that. You opened this up into a discussion about these two individuals, and now you’re expressing dismay that this very discussion is happening. This perplexes me. However you intended to come across, or whatever/whomever you were referring to with those comments, they came across as defensive of the man and as implying that the woman was lying.

      And it seems we’re just not going to agree about which camp is creating the uncomfortable/unsafe environment for women who may otherwise want to speak out. It makes me nauseous to think of someone reading the post and feeling like maybe, just maybe, this community *is* ready to shift, and she can come forward and speak out and be supported — and then getting to the comments in which one woman’s experience with one elevated man was pushed as the focus of the discussion and in which people who apparently haven’t even asked her to tell them her story (but who are seemingly upset about my writing a general post without getting his story) are making remarks about witch-hunts, slander, snitching, etc. in one line while stating in the next line that their biggest concern is creating a safe space for victims/survivors.

      We didn’t have to have a “tribunal” in this thread. His friends seemed to be the ones intent on taking it in that direction at the same time that I was trying to remain very vague in response to questions, say “let’s not go there,” and reiterate the need for the general discussion.

  16. annoynmous permalink
    August 12, 2010 2:35 pm

    kdao

  17. annoynmous permalink
    August 12, 2010 2:57 pm

    Okay, I honestly don’t have time to read up on all of this. And I want to be specific in that I’m not commenting on particular individual cases– But, I can not let such a large misinterpretation of feminism go undisputed.

    Vegina. I truly can not believe that you would claim to be an instructor of womyn studies when you seem to be missing such large pieces of it. Did you forget that we all live in a culture that allocates power and truth, among all sorts of other positive attributes to Men and creates a culture that would rather consider womyn to be evil, manipulative, dishonest and distrustworthy? Did you forget that we live in a culture where off setting the regular balance is what NEEDS to be done to create an equal forum for each voice to be heard? Gosh, as anyone educated in womyn studies should already understand that womyn are much less likely to be believed in a situation of abuse than a male-boddied abuser is. So, how can you leave this all out of your argument in assuming that we’re creating an atmosphere that the accused is presumed guilty without noting that this power dynamic must be off-set for both sides to be weight equally?

    Further, how DARE you call this a witch hunt???? Did you forget what the witch hunts were about? Did you forget the horribly sexist creation of this country that created centuries of unhealthy sexist dynamics? Did you forget???? Weird. I’m sure glad I didn’t take your class in womyn studies because its obviously lacking something!!!! If anything about this is a witch hunt is the manipulation tools that the men who are abusive are using to hide their abuses. Its so easy to simply call a womyn “crazy” or “bad” or in our case “snitch” to burn HER at the stake. How dare you forget what womyn have endured in this country for centuries and continue to endure!!!! You ought to be ashamed! If you didn’t front yourself as so much of a feminist, I would be more understanding and give you the benefit of doubt that you have been brought up in a sexist culture and taught to not beleive womyn and taught that men are truthful, etc. But, sense you claim to be educated, you don’t deserve any benefit of any doubt. You truly ought to be ashamed by putting yourself out there as an educated feminist who has no idea what feminism is. Please. Go read more. Learn more. And educate yourself on what it takes to off set the power dynamics and the power that men hold, especially in situations like this.

    Futher, I would actually say that this forum is safe for womyn who are considering coming forward, because at least now they know where to find good honest people, like Faith, who will believe them and will now know not to come to you if there is a problem. Conversations like this is probably why you are not privy to facts. And, I’d be curious to know, you say that you have letters from survivors… How did you get those? Were they given to you? Or did you intercept them? Because it sounds like you would have facts if you have letters– And you were a little shady in explaining why you don’t beleive them or how you recieved them. I would say that you are probably a big reason why womyn are not coming forward becaues here, in this conversation, they are witnessing the modern witch trials thaty ou have created to burn the survivors.

    Also, I’m so glad that you are interested in getting sexual assault counselors at conferences… But, why didn’t you have them at your conference a few months ago? It sounds like Faith was working on getting them at AR 2010. Were you a part of that? How dare you put other womyn’s ideas out there as if they are your own. How dare you use other womyns statements to try to make yourself sound like a feminist?

    Futher, I’m so glad that you wanted to redirect this conversation to how to actually help womyn. I got a few simple words: BELIEVE THEM!!!!!!

    I’m sorry that you had a situation where you believed someone that was later proved to be untrue. This is a very rare occurance. But, being a feminist means, bouncing back from that– And continuing to beleive womyn; because our culture has already created an atmosphere where they are unlikely to be believed. So, take a real stand– And BELIEVE THEM. Its not easy. No one said it was. But, its what you have to do as a feminist. Sorry. You’ll probably lose friends, you’ll probably lose a lot of energy, you’ll spend nights awake, you might be afraid of other people’s reactions. But, that is what you need to do to use the title of feminist. BELIEVE WOMYN.

    • August 12, 2010 3:09 pm

      Oookay. I just want to say, quickly, that I don’t think it helps to question whether Vegina is a “real” feminist. She may be a feminist I disagree with right now, a feminist whose remarks and approach I’m taking issue with, and a feminist who is friends with the accused abuser in this situation (and who, in my opinion, seems to be coming from that perspective), but I don’t feel that going the condescending “you’re not a real feminist; go read more” approach here is helpful, and I have appreciated her perspective and thoughts in past discussions. My two cents. I know we’re all worked up and at moments exasperated, but let’s try to keep the responses a notch or two higher on the respect meter.

  18. annonymous permalink
    August 12, 2010 3:37 pm

    Thank you Stephanie for the input– But, I hate to say it– I truly do beleive that this womyn is dangerous in the feminist community and that she truly hurts womyn by putting her self out there as a feminist. This is not the first time she had failed to beleive a survivor. This is not the first time she had denied facts and taken the side of abusers. I only find her dangerous because she makes herself so public. God forbid, a young womyn who is new the community comes to her with a case of abuse– I can’t imagine what would ensue if approaching Vegina first. She has routinely failed to beleive womyn– And I sincerely think she should step down as a “feminist” until she can change her attitudes and learn to believe womyn. I did note, that I would have been more respectful and given her a ‘benefit of doubt” if she didn’t put herself out there so much– But, being as those she puts herself out there, I do find her to be dangerous to womyn who may be thinking of coming forward. I have no other way to say it or no other way to treat womyn who are hurting survivors. Further, she has made the most awful mistakes of betraying the confidences of suvivors. She has taken the words of suvivors (who wished their words to be confidential) and past them along to abusers. I truly feel that she is dangerous and only more dangerous by putting herself out there as a feminist– Because survivors need to find womyn like Faith who are ready to take a stand and believe them. Not people like Vegina who will not believe them, further vicimize them and further put them in real danger by putting their confidential words into the hands of abusers. It is no wonder that she hasn’t been made privy to all of the facts.

    • August 12, 2010 4:11 pm

      I have no clue who you are or what you are talking about. No woman has ever come to me in the animal rights movement, save for one, to tell me of abuse. And that person was not telling me to get help and everything said remained in confidence. even though the exchange happened on facebook. I have only received letters through third parties in regard to the animal rights movement. I have worked with women outside the movement, but I am sure you are not referring to any of that. I actually have no clue as to what you are referring. I don’t appreciate the way you are attempting to discredit my arguments by slandering me and telling untrue things about me. I have NEVER told any person accused of abuse the things that a victim or accuser has told me. I can only guess who you are and have no clue what you are talking about.

  19. August 12, 2010 4:16 pm

    I understand that my dissent makes many of you uncomfortable. I apologize if my perspectie regarding how to handle accusations of abuse has made anyone who has ever been victimized feel as if I am discounting you or your experinces. I do not want to and did not intend to do that. I am talking about how to handle these situations, not how to allocate “blame.”
    I will respectfully bow out of this conversation at this point. I think my points have been clearly made, though disagreed with. and at this point I will likely just be trying to defend myself as an individual. I am really glad that this conversation is happening and I am open to hearing others opinions and evaluating my own in light of them. I think this topic is of the utmost importance. I will continue to follow along “off air.” Thank you again, Stephanie, for raising the tough issues.

  20. pete permalink
    August 12, 2010 7:18 pm

    Wow. What an impassioned debate. Thanks, Stephanie, for bringing this issue up–it’s apparent that a lot of work needs to be done.
    I don’t have anything specific to contribute to the discussion of the particular incident, but I second what Alex said about each of us bringing in prevailing standards through the door. In this instance, when we’re talking about men abusing women, the men have a particular responsibility to speak out against the abuses of other men; men who abuse women aren’t going to be swayed by the voices of women–it’ll be a different story once men stand up to them.

    • pete permalink
      August 12, 2010 8:02 pm

      I wonder though, in Peter’s case, if that will happen. Now, I don’t know him hardly at all; I’ve only met him recently, and didn’t talk much, just a cordial greeting and some small talk, so I wasn’t a witness to his prevailing character; but since I trust the veracity of those who were close to the issue, needless to say, I’m not willing to lend any support to him. Since he is seen as a leader of the animal liberation movement, I think many people are overlooking his issues in order to gain more cred for themselves. I think also a lot of people have invested themselves heavily in past support before this was brought up, so they are more willing to discount the accusations because they don’t want to admit that their support was misplaced.

      Ironic that those in the animal liberation movement come from an anarchist or anti-authoritarian background, yet they are all too willing to canonize someone in this movement as a hero who can do no wrong. Lead yourself, don’t follow others!

      • Wendy permalink
        August 13, 2010 7:28 am

        “Ironic that those in the animal liberation movement come from an anarchist or anti-authoritarian background, yet they are all too willing to canonize someone in this movement as a hero who can do no wrong. Lead yourself, don’t follow others!”

        Agreed!

        And I think this shows how much we DO need to have guidelines in place for things like this. It’s a shame it’s taken an incident like this to make (us) me recognize that. We don’t want to think, or rather, I don’t want to think that someone who is vegan, who cares about non-human animals, can treat others so badly, but alas being vegan, being AR, doesn’t automatically get you gold stars for being an overall good person.

        Where things get muddled for me is how much does one make public? Obviously in a case of abuse it’s up to the victim (I’d be inclined to personally throw the scumbag’s actions on every blog or something but that’s just me). As a member of a community supposedly dedicated to ending oppression, how much do we, who are not directly involved in the situation, have a right to know?

        Does it depend on the extent of abuse? Do we utilize shunning? Do we after all call the cops? Or maybe that’s not a “we.”

        More importantly in terms of keeping the AR movement together (which actually it does not seem to be), WHO gets to decide whether a particular activist is dangerous to other people and, as a result, to the movement?

        After what happened to Eric McDavid (I hope I got his name right), we definitely don’t want to dismiss the possibility of infiltrators causing such upheaval and taking us away from the mission of AR, but we also do not want to cave to the mindset that just because someone is AR s/he is a good person. We cannot ignore that despite the labor being performed tirelessly by female AR activists, the men (white men primarily) still basically run the show, and that most of us have grown up expecting to treat others a certain way or to be treated a certain way based on gender (esp those of us, I think, who are a little older), and that it takes both work and desire to get out of that trap. I sadly do not notice AR people thinking that they have the time or inclination to do this, that AR is somehow separate from other rights movements and vice versa, so that we become narrow in a movement that cannot, for all animals’ sake, afford to become so narrow.

        I know there are leaders in the movement, but I still question who decides what makes another activist, esp one with a name and one who has done some good things for animals, a liability to everyone.

        Just as we can’t afford to utilize the stupid racist, sexist tactics of organizations like peta, we cannot afford racist, sexist behavior.

        Okay, well I remain confused. I know where I stand on the Peter Young issue, but in a broader spectrum I am without answers.

  21. Chelsea permalink
    August 13, 2010 6:01 am

    I will start by saying that I agree wholeheartedly with the aforementioned statement, however, I feel obligated to include my personal insight on the issues at hand. This is, by no means, an easy thing to publish on the internet or elsewhere. I ask for any readers to please be gentle with their words when they come to combat mine (which they inevitably will). Without going into too much detail, I am coming forward to say that I have been a victim of abuse. It is, by far, the most horrific thing that any sentient being might ever have to face. To any woman or man or animal who has suffered through any sort of physical or mental abuse, please know that there is complete and total solidarity, and I understand your plight. For your suffering, I am truly sorry.

    That being said, I feel it is nothing less than absolutely necessary to defend Peter’s character. He has been a friend, a lover, and a confidante of mine for quite some time. I have never once felt threatened in his presence. In fact, when I am with Peter, I am certain that my words will be heard, and that my safety is a priority to him, as much as it is to me. It is appalling to me that anyone could accuse him of being anything more than the kind, loving, and conscious person that he is.

    When I heard of the vague things he is being accused of, I was not only sick to my stomach on his behalf, but I was deeply affected personally. When a woman says that she has been “abused”, her words should be taken seriously and action should absolutely be taken. There is not a doubt in my mind that Peter is entirely incapable of committing any act of abuse against a woman. It is unfortunate that I am put in a position where I have to deny the truthfulness of this woman’s accusations. It is sad that in order to seek vengeance, some people have no other ammunition than “pulling the abuse card;” in fact, it is sickening. Stooping to that level is indicative of complete lack of control of a situation. It is an act of desperation. As a survivor of both physical and mentl abuse, I believe that it is of upmost importance that the issue is taken seriously, and it is because of asinine and bogus accusations that it is not.

    I hope that Peter’s “accuser” is reading this. It is my duty to tell you that you are a coward. You are, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the reason that women aren’t taken seriously when they say that they have been the victims of any sort of malevolence. My heart goes out to Peter, during your quest to defame and hurt him, but more so, my heart goes out to you. You are surely lost, and I hope that for your sake, Peter’s sake, and the sake of any woman who has been unfortunate enough to have lived through being defiled in any way that you seek the help that you need in order to regain control of your situation. Using Peter as a scapegoat is unforgivable, however it is within your power to repair the situation and set the record straight. If you have felt out of control, I implore you to channel your strength now, and alleviate Peter of these horrible accusations. He is a wonderful man and I feel nothing short of blessed to have him in my life.
    I will not be checking back here for further updates. I invite you to email me, and we can discuss further if you deem it necessary.

    • Chelsea permalink
      August 13, 2010 6:08 am

      please ignore the opening sentence “I agree whole heartedly with the aforementioned statement.” It was meant to be posted elsewhere. I apologize for any confusion.

    • August 13, 2010 8:20 am

      This is by far the most inappropriate comment that has been posted here, and really, it’s entirely possible that I will decide to delete it. These kinds of comments almost make me want to start moderating comments or close them altogether.

      In the meantime, let’s try this, Chelsea: I know you were never really abused. I am 100% certain that you are just pathetically making it up in order to give yourself credibility in this discussion while you defend a friend. I’ve known all your past lovers, and I can say without doubt that they’re absolutely incapable of abuse. They are amazing, gentle people I respect and love. Your accusations are attention-seeking lies. So I feel it is my duty to tell you and everyone else here that you are nothing but a vindictive, vengeful coward, and the story of your so-called abuse is asinine; I am so sorry for those you’ve accused — they are the real victims.

      Do I believe any of the preceding? No! Absolutely not! But how would it feel to have your own words turned against you?

      Do I seem angry at this point? Well, I am.

      Let’s talk, folks, about how many abusers wear signs around their necks in bold letters: “I HAVE ABUSED. I MAY ABUSE AGAIN.” Chelsea, do you know how many abused persons have people (and statements from people) like you, current or past friends or lovers of the abuser, to navigate around in their efforts to heal and/or get accountability from the abuser? Probably most. I’m going to be absolutely blunt here: I don’t give a damn how long someone has known another person, even if it’s been years, even if the person is a current intimate partner. You cannot know how a person may interact with or has in the past interacted with other individuals. You can’t. Is it possible that this one person never has been or never will be abusive with some individuals? Yes! Do I think it’s probable that every person who’s ever reported that this person has been abusive toward her is lying? No! Mostpeople who have abused probably have a list of people who know them in one capacity or another who would swear up and down that they are incapable of doing what they did. Most people who have abused have people in their life who would be utterly shocked to know what they’re capable of in certain circumstances behind closed doors. That the person in this case or any case has such defenders doesn’t mean much.

      And do you think that people who’ve been abused aren’t affected by the knowledge that their abusers haven’t abused everyone they’ve ever been with? Do you think maybe that even adds to the pain and confusion and self-blame a victim/survivor has to overcome? Do you think that maybe when a person has initially seemed (or still sometimes seems) so loving and gentle and attentitive and charming and “incapable” of such behavior, it’s even more hurtful and confusing and destructive when the behavior does come out? That the senses of betrayal and self-doubt are worsened by that?

      Abusers aren’t all necessarily monsters. In some cases, they may be, in many ways, lovely people with lovely potential who’ve done lovely things and who are capable of very loving behavior — but also imperfect, potentially dangerous-to-others people who need real help changing their behavior and ways of thinking. And they may be abusive toward some people, for whatever reason, while not daring to be abusive toward others. And other abusers may really not be so lovely people, but just be fantastic manipulators and deceivers. I believe both types exist.

      If you too are a survivor of abuse, Chelsea, I implore you to step back and think. Maybe the person who abused you wasn’t someone in a position of power or someone well-liked or someone whose capacity to abuse wasn’t questioned by many — I don’t know. But even if not, please try to imagine what that must feel like, what it must feel like when people who have seen and known only another side of your abuser, and who desperately want to believe the accounts can’t be true, defend him with vigor while working to publicly humiliate and discredit you, while stomping you down and dismissing your experience and compounding the abuse that you’ve already been faced with overcoming.

      The comment you left here, Chelsea, is exactly, exactly, the kind of behavior and response I am imploring people to rethink in these cases. Such responses do no one any good, least of all those who’ve been abused who are terrified of receiving such reactions themselves.

    • Judith permalink
      February 4, 2011 5:31 pm

      You women are ALL nuts. Either you’re accusing this man of abuse or else name-dropping and boasting of being his lover. Don’t you ladies have any DISCRETION? A person’s private life should be a complete MYSTERY to outsiders. Peter, you have my heartfelt sympathy–I apologise to you on behalf of the entire female gender. May we all learn to show a little more grace.

  22. Joe permalink
    August 13, 2010 8:40 am

    I love this blog, read every article, and find most articles to be inspiring and informative. I fully agree that animal liberation and human liberation (which includes smashing the patriarchy and abolishing racism) are necessary and imperative.

    I am very concerned however about the comments I’m reading here. I’m sure you all have the best intentions but what do you hope to accomplish by this gossip? Did either party ask any of you to act “as their agent” or to make public posts on the internet naming people and events?

    The conversation in the comments here as far as I can see only is (based on third and second hand information) causing gossip and division among people who should be allies.

    There is a right way and a wrong way to resolve conflicts between individuals. What I see here is a perfect example of the wrong way. Nothing productive, only destructive, comes from such conversations by semi anonymous individuals who only have a vague idea of what is going on anyway.

    Ask yourself: What do I want? Will such comments accomplish my goals?

    The comments here have already exposed infighting among both the feminist and AR movements. If I was a government agent I’d see the comments on this blog and ecstatically declare that the movement will destroy itself.

    Do we really need to be more fractured and more marginalized?

    It is my hope that Stephanie will remove the comments here on the basis that they accomplish nothing and, as far as I can tell, involve parties speaking on behalf of individuals without their consent.

    • August 13, 2010 9:19 am

      Joe, thank you for your thoughts. I do not know whether his friends came here at his direct request. I imagine one or two of them may have. His supporters are the ones who refused to let this thread remain general and vague and whose remarks required defending the woman, even if this is not the direction I wanted to see this thread go. Maybe I should have shut down the conversation sooner. But also, in some ways, maybe some responses, insinuations, and language here show how far we have to go. I don’t know. I think some important, eye-opening issues have been raised, and some of what’s happened here illustrates my points, in an ugly way. Some of this has been horrifying. As for the person who named him and gave some details in response to his friends’ remarks, yes, she is in close contact with the woman. And yes, I’ve now been in more direct contact with her as well. And if she expresses a wish to see this thread shut down, I’ll do that, if I don’t come to the decision to do that myself first. As for deleting the thread in its entirety (or portions of it), that’s something to which I’ll need to give some thought (while considering her wishes too). On one hand, I believe in open dialogue — and in some of the things here being documented. On the other, this is not what I want victims/survivors to see when they may be weighing whether to come forward. If I’d known things were going to devolve in the way they have, I likely would have deleted some early comments (or portions of them) to try to stop this before it got started.

  23. August 13, 2010 11:51 am

    Because supporters of the abuser in the specific matter that took over this thread continued to use this as a space to promote him and to try to belittle and discredit his accusers, comments are now being moderated, something I’ve never before done.

    I will say only this in response to the four women who submitted a letter here fawning over him and their past or ongoing sexual relationships with him:

    1. You are not the only four women he’s been involved with. The woman you’re intent on challenging is not the only woman who has reported abusiveness. Others who know him well strongly disagree with your assessment of what is and is not in line with his character. And though supporters are clearly fond of pointing out that such women haven’t come forward publicly, this kind of behavior and reaction and intimidation from you, from him, and from others is exactly why women don’t come forward.

    2. Reread my response to Chelsea’s first vitriolic message while it and my response are still up. And then do one of two things: (a) congratulate yourselves on being part of the problem, part of the reason abuse victims/survivors are so reticent to speak up and abusers get to keep abusing, or (b) reconsider your assumptions, your behavior, and where and when, if anywhere or ever, it’s appropriate or acceptable to post something like what you and she posted — it’s certainly not accepted or appropriate or tolerated here.

    • Denis permalink
      August 13, 2010 12:08 pm

      You should remove my posts too. It’s not reasonable to let people say defamatory things about one person and not another unless you have proof. It’s not reasonable to let people defend the veracity and character of one person and not another. This thread is replete with sentences defending the character of the accuser by people who know her. That’s fine and I’m sure they’re true, but you can’t allow one and remove the other.
      You’ve several time accused anyone who would question the way this situation has been handled of being directed by the accused. I can assure you that’s not the case. The only vitriol I’ve witnessed in this thread is against the accused and myself and vegina for discussing the general issue of how to approach accusations in a fair and just manner. I don’t understand how you can think it’s fair to remove the comment regarding Peter signed by four individuals who are willing to give their email addresses and leave the extremely hostile anonymous attack against vegina’s character.
      You’ve also accused us of pushing the comments into this discussion. The first comment in the thread is about this situation! So, no, that’s not an objective analysis of the thread.
      Please remove my posts as well. I don’t participate in censored discussions unless the moderator is clearly objective.

      • August 13, 2010 12:27 pm

        This is exactly why I was/am so hesitant to moderate comments. I hate the idea of moderating comments, Denis; I really do. I’ve never done it before. But I also don’t want to see further comments like Chelsea’s come through against an abuse victim/survivor, remarks that can be devastating not only to the specific individual at whom they are directed but also to every current and past and future victim/survivor of abuse who reads them. And my response to her should give you an idea of why I deleted the group letter. His protection is not my greatest concern. The wagons are already circled around him, and his pedestal is still shiny and solid. My concern is the potential hugely detrimental effect of these silencing/shaming/discrediting tactics and comments on abuse victims/survivors.

        Maybe I’m becoming too heavy-handed in the thread (I’ve not rejected any comments yet, for the record), or maybe I’m becoming heavy-handed too late in the thread. I don’t know. But please note that I did openly object to the earlier characterization of Vegina, even though at that point, I wasn’t completely ready to throw in the towel on the idea of completely open dialogue or on the idea that this thread could be salvaged.

        Regarding how this all got started, when Wendy referred to hearing something at the conference, she did so vaguely, and I responded vaguely, and that was that. When another commenter, Tracy, then asked for the name and explanation, I again was vague and pointed out that I didn’t think it was appropriate to have this conversation in this space and wanted to take about the broader issue. But shortly thereafter, Vegina commented, noting that I had said “let’s not do this here,” but still going ahead and remarking in some detail on the matter anyway, including implying that the woman was lying and that people were just engaging in slander and witch-hunts. And that’s where this got going. And really, if you don’t see vitriol toward the woman in Chelsea’s comment, then we’re further apart in perspective than I realized.

        I’m sorry if you think I’m being unfair, Denis. That’s not my intention. I didn’t expect the reaction to the post to go like this, and again, I don’t ever moderate, and so I’m figuring out how to handle this as I go. But yes, if I’m going to err on the side of being protective of someone, I will err on the side of being protective of abuse victims/survivors, specific ones who’ve been torn down here and all victim/survivors in general who may read through this mess. I hope you can understand that.

      • August 13, 2010 4:15 pm

        Denis, Stephanie has been more than fair and more than sensitive. I admit to being impressed – if anything, I happen to think she is being TOO nice!

        Objectivity is fine and dandy, until comments like Chelsea’s pop up. If I sat you down and talked to you like this about the abuse…oh wait, the “alleged” abuse you endured, how on earth would that make you feel? If someone said this to a loved one of yours? Hell, I’d be outraged if someone said it to a perfect stranger.

        “I hope that Peter’s “accuser” is reading this. It is my duty to tell you that you are a coward. You are, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the reason that women aren’t taken seriously when they say that they have been the victims of any sort of malevolence. ”

        This is victim-blaming. This is wrong. This is the essence of vitriol, mean and spiteful. It demeans all victims of abuse as somehow complicit in their abuse, somehow responsible for the actions of the abuser. She calls a woman who feels that she was abused a fecking coward. She goes onto say that women who speak up, like the woman who feels she was abused, are the reason “true victims” aren’t taken seriously. I don’t make any claims to the facts of this particular case. I don’t want to and no one else should. But, in of itself, this comment speaks to victims and it condemns them as people without backbones, without integrity. It oppresses and victimizes further, and that is never, ever, ever in a million years, acceptable.

        You can probably delete your own comments. I’d prefer Chelsea’s were deleted, but that’s just me. It would be good riddance, in my book. It just isn’t what I want to see in a forum about animal rights and anti-oppression (and Stephanie, this is NOT an indictment at all – you’ve handled this far more gracefully than I ever would, and I 100% respect any and all decisions you make in this thread and forum…I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut.)

  24. Mkultra permalink
    August 13, 2010 3:11 pm

    My comment is not second hand “gossip.” I myself have experienced this exact issue with a well known activist in my community. I am currently trying to figure out how to deal with it.

    It seems easy for some here to make quick judgement on how it should be handled and to criticize. Easy to do if it’s not your mind being fucked with.

    I am new to this community, and my enthusiasm clouded my judgement. I blindly assumed that because someone was a well known, respected, ARA, I could trust them. I would never have thought a person fighting for the rights of the oppressed, would attempt to oppress me.

    This person emotionally and physically abused me. Not only that, they violated me in a way I felt could seriously jeopardize the movement.

    While on one hand, I feel the desire to just leave the community and never think about this again, I also feel a responsibility to my fellow activists, and to the animals. I feel I must take some sort of action in hopes of preventing this from happening to someone else.

    Yet for someone new to the movement especially, without any long term connections, where do I turn?

    I’m glad it’s being discussed here, but to me all the solutions sound theoretical. I am not in a theoretical situation. It’s very real. It is something I must deal with, now. There really is nowhere for me to turn, except to take the chance trusting other activists and to trust my own intuition.

    Therefore, I ask you not to be so quick to judge. Especially when no one seems to have an answer. This is not a witch hunt, this is not drama. This is a serious reality.

    I could keep this a secret, sweep it under the rug, and just disappear. But this will only continue to happen over and over again. Until we make it change, we risk losing many amazing activists by protecting these supposed “heroes”.

    I find it ironic, that in a movement that realizes the effects of domination and the effects of giving up individual power, that many still put these “leaders” up on pedestals and assist in creating ego maniacs. While I expect this in society at large, I am so disappointed to find out the AR movement is no different.

    I am working on ways to deal with this, in a thoughtful, strategic, well planned way, but there is no clear path. I hope that by my speaking out, others will too. I am also unfortunately preparing myself for a backlash. Those who speak out put their own reputation on the line, for the movement and for all of you.

    I am hoping that the movement will strive for complete equality and realize our strength lies in self leadership, not in following anyone else. Giving your power away, no matter what the cause, will lead to dangerous situations.

    • Joe permalink
      August 13, 2010 4:43 pm

      Mkultra, I feel you may be responding to me because you mentioned a few of the words I used. I don’t see any earlier comments by you. Did you use a different name?

      I want to be very clear that I was not claiming that your comments about your own experiences are gossip. I’m very sorry to hear that you were hurt and I do encourage you to do anything you feel is appropriate in response.

      It is a very sad fact that sexual violence and other forms of abuse does occur even within the animal rights community (and indeed within all communities I’m aware of) and I by no means intend to silence anyone who has been abused from speaking out. On the contrary please do speak out if you have been abused (and get to a safe place) I also know of others who have been abused. It is okay to speak about it.

      My objection was specifically to the incident that Faith Gundran and others are referring to and the way it is being handled in this thread. When I said “gossip” I was not talking about people like you who are speaking about what happened personally.

      I did not want to comment and I do not want to get involved on either side (and please no one interpret these comments to be one either side of that specific incident) but I felt the discussion here was not productive but rather destructive to the movement against all forms of oppression.

      I wish I had solutions on what could be done to stop abusers from continuing to abuse.

      A general discussion of how to handle abuse and abusers is actually very important and something that should be discussed more.

      • Mkultra permalink
        August 13, 2010 5:46 pm

        Joe,

        Not sure why it matters if this is my first post? And, no, I was not aiming my response at you or anyone in particular, it was a general reply to everyone regarding my own experience. But since you replied to me directly, I will reply to you as well:

        What you are saying is that Faith has not handled this issue in a way you feel is correct. Yet at the same time, you have no solution as to how to deal with it yourself.

        If we are to speak out, where and who exactly are we supposed to speak out to?

        And once given the knowledge that someone is an abuser, is it not your responsibility to speak out too, even if you are not the abused? Are only those who have personally experienced the abuse supposed to speak about it? What if you had knowledge someone was an abuser and you saw them begin to prey on your friend or sister? Would you not step forward with this information?

        Isn’t it our responsibility to protect our fellow comrades in this movement?

        Do you actually think that Faith has ill intentions by bringing this into the light? Why is your first assumption that such a serious matter is mere gossip?

        Rather than dismiss her speaking out about this as gossip, perhaps you should look at it as someone who is willing to get involved. Someone who is willing to confront this issue head on and take a stand. Isn’t that the true meaning of activism?

        It’s amazing to me, that when it comes to animal rights, most of us are not willing to compromise. We take a stand and we speak out for justice. Yet when it comes to our own human issues, seems like most people would rather bury their head in the sand.

        I’m not saying you have to blindly take anyone’s word on an issue. But this issue does affect you if you are in this movement. It will affect the strength and success of our goals. Rather than condemning a person for taking a stand, perhaps you should look into the matter yourself. This is not topic you can sit on the fence about and expect change. In order to create change, people will have to take a stand.

        I could probably more easily keep this to myself. Faith could probably more easily keep the information she has to herself too. What we are doing IS speaking out. You just don’t approve of how it has been done on this page.

        So then, how should it be done???

      • Joe permalink
        August 13, 2010 6:17 pm

        MKultra, I specifically said that I do not feel anyone had anyone here has any ill intent.

        I quote from myself here: “I am very concerned however about the comments I’m reading here. I’m sure you all have the best intentions but what do you hope to accomplish by this gossip?”

        I believe we have had a miscommunication. When you started your post out with “My comment is not second hand “gossip.””

        I believed you were talking about a comment you had made previously so that is your answer to your question: “Not sure why it matters if this is my first post? ”

        The intention of my post that you have replied to was simply to try to clarify that:

        1. I was not claiming that first hand accounts are gossip.
        2. It is good to report abuse.

        For my specific objections please read my comment here:

        http://challengeoppression.com/2010/08/10/power-dynamics-abuse-and-violence-inside-relationships-and-inside-our-movements/#comment-2254

        In response to your question: “If we are to speak out, where and who exactly are we supposed to speak out to?”

        This is part of what this thread should be about. This is what the movement must figure out.

        Somehow you believe I’ve condemned someone for taking a stand and yet I intended the contrary (as I specifically said)

        It is now clear that I’ve completely failed in this thread. My reply to you was an attempt to encourage you to speak out against abuse that happened to you in the way you felt was best and clear up any misunderstandings.

        I’m really not interested in participating further in this thread. I had hoped my previous comment would encourage a more constructive form of dialog but I now feel that my comments may even be an impediment to that.

        I have two final open questions to everyone just for you to think about if you desire:

        Do you think this thread will make more people want to be activists, feminists, or vegans? If so why? If not why?

        Do you feel the comments in this thread will accomplish any specific goals or bring about resolution or healing to anyone? If so why? If not why?

        Thank you for your consideration.

  25. Mkultra permalink
    August 13, 2010 7:43 pm

    I’m wondering if we can re-direct this thread into a discussion of what needs to be done to fix this weakness in our movement?

    The questions I am trying to answer are these:

    What should be done about abusers in our activist communities?

    How, where and who do we speak out about our abuse to?
    If not on blogs, or fb, should we hold community meetings?

    How do we alert and protect our friends and fellow activists without being accused of starting gossip or drama?

    • August 15, 2010 9:28 pm

      Indeed, Mkultra, this is the conversation we need to be having. And part of addressing the issue is overcoming some of the troublesome attitudes and reactions that have surfaced here. Anyway, forgive me for not responding sooner; I’ve had to stop directing so much of my attention/time to this. But I’ll try to respond again in more detail in the next day or two.

  26. COINTELPRO permalink
    August 15, 2010 8:01 pm

    While everyone is arguing he said / she said, I think there is someone with bigger problems:

    http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/08/13/18656019.php

    How shameful and inappropriate to gossip monger during a time like this, and about someone who is probably the biggest FBI target in the movement now. If this isn’t COINTELPRO at work, I don’t know what is.

    • August 15, 2010 9:25 pm

      To the contrary, how shameful and inappropriate — and disgusting and completely missing the very point of this post — to suggest that just because someone is a target of the FBI and an idolized figure among activists, any potential abusive behaviors should just be ignored (and any abused persons dismissed and marginalized) because he has “bigger problems.” Past, present, or future activism or attention from the FBI or charm — none of these things gets anyone a free pass. And the atmosphere that such attitudes (and such nauseating idolization) have created is exactly the problem. And how very convenient to be able to accuse anyone who stands up to you of being an agent of the state — and have your admirers eat it up.

    • Wendy permalink
      August 16, 2010 9:36 am

      Blaming the victims again? If a person who is involved in activism of any kind abuses someone, and the abuser is targeted by the police or other federal investigative organization, we should stop discussing the abuse, stop trying to find a solution?

      The fault of abuse is with the abuser.

      One situation has nothing to do with the other.

    • August 16, 2010 10:25 am

      Fuck you and your ranking of oppressions.

    • August 16, 2010 2:07 pm

      Okay, so maybe “fuck you” isn’t the most productive of responses, but COINTELPRO’s is the single most offensive comment I’ve seen in this thread so far. S/he doesn’t even appear to care whether the accusations are true, because on his/her “hierarchy of oppressions,” domestic violence/abuse ranks well below government oppression. This is the same tired shit women (and other so-called “special interest groups”) have been hearing for years, across a variety of social movements: “This isn’t the time to push for marriage equality.” “Sure, healthcare reform might set reproductive rights back a decade, but hey, look at all the additional people it will cover!” “Let’s not discuss abusive men in the AR community because shhhh!, the FBI might be listening!”

      Well, fuck that noise. It’s simply unacceptable to toss one group of animals under the bus in the name of helping another. The fact that the government is oppressing the accused does not excuse his oppression of another activist. And there’s nothing “shameful” about saying as much.

      One final point: this type of “logic” is commonly employed against animal activists, e.g., “Why do you waste your time worrying about cows and pigs when OMG CHILDREN ARE STARVING IN AFRICA!?!” Compassion is not a finite pie whose slices can only be doled out to one cause at the expense of all others. Just as we must reject this “reasoning” when applied to animal advocacy, so too must we reject it when it’s used to dismiss human rights abuses. ALL forms of oppression are wrong; all are interconnected; and all must be eradicated.

  27. Judith permalink
    February 2, 2011 6:24 pm

    Maybe it’s just me, but when a woman names herself Vegina, I find it hard to take seriously her gripes about sexual abuse. If you Harpies don’t get off his case, I’m going to lose 20 pounds and have low-self esteem!!!

    • February 3, 2011 11:45 am

      Not appropriate. I may disagree fiercely with how “Vegina” responded to this matter, but I fail to see any merit in (or legitimate reason for) attacking her personally on the basis of her chosen nom de plume (a reflection of identities–vegan and woman and feminist–that, for whatever it’s worth, I find amusing, regardless of the offense I take to her positions here).

      • Judith permalink
        February 4, 2011 4:33 pm

        I can’t think of a worse moniker for a woman. It makes me cringe!!! I drop a pound every time I see it.

  28. February 5, 2011 2:25 pm

    Folks, I obviously stopped moderating comments a while ago (though I never prevented any from coming through except the one “letter” referred to at the time I enabled moderation), which unfortunately left the door open to some ongoing baffling remarks from someone whose only goal seems to be to try to offend and instigate. My apologies to those who’ve been getting the notifications. I’m closing the comments as a result.

Trackbacks

  1. NARN Blog » Blog Archive » Link of the Week
  2. Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 24: Three months o’ links! » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info
  3. furkid friday: dogs and books (and books about dogs) » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info

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