For those Beginning to Question Cancel Culture

Originally Published February 11, 2021

For those Beginning to Question Cancel Culture

If you’ve called out your abuser and you are finding yourself resonating with critiques of call outs/cancel culture, but are also feeling defensive or afraid- I just want to say that you will find a lot of healing by allowing yourself to explore these ethical questions.

I also want to say that just because we are asking questions doesn’t mean the abuse you experienced isn’t real.

For a long time I have seriously struggled with the ethics around call outs. I knew that the directive to believe and center survivors without question was an easy way for someone to claim victimhood and alienate people without having to be accountable for it in any way.

I also knew that the criminal justice system and society at large did not support nor believe survivors and that call outs created space for truth telling and vindication that survivors could find nowhere else.

Finding a way to synthesize all of these things at once was intensely painful. I felt helpless in addressing the abuse I went through. Yet the path of choosing to call out my abuser brought me so much pain too.

I had thoroughly given up that intervention was possible- and being honest I don’t know that the tools or resources were available to me for a successful intervention to even happen. Those tools and resources are hardly available now.

If I learned anything from my experience though, it is that I don’t need my abuser to change to find my own growth and healing.

And I don’t need everyone who will listen to believe me, or even hear me to heal from what I experienced.

Being completely transparent, I don’t have coherent feelings about whether my choice to call out my abuser was really in my integrity or not. And that’s okay- I’m only recently starting to process all of this.

I know that the abuse was real. I know I’m not the only one my abuser targeted. I know that my choice had an impact on the person who abused me.

I know it’s not likely that we can have an honest conversation about any of it.

I know that I was angry as hell, that he had cancelled me behind my back before I ever got a chance to tell my story. I wanted my name to be cleared. I wanted to take back some control. I wanted him to be exposed and I wanted him to suffer for what he’d done.

I know those feelings are normal- I know that feelings don’t justify actions.

I know some part of me really did feel that I was protecting people at the time as well.

As time has gone on, the logic of that narrative has unraveled a bit- now I realize that people must be free to make their own choices.

I believe now that what may be more effective is to support others in getting in touch with their own integrity and help them learn how to spot and safely and effectively navigate abuse and manipulation for themselves.

Had I had those skills, I don’t think I would have been with the people who abused me longer than a few hours at the least, perhaps a few weeks at most. Looking back, the signs were there, and even if I saw no signs, abusers are typically not interested in people who keep strong boundaries and do not bend easily to manipulation.

I had grown up to believe my needs, my boundaries, my values and who I was did not matter.

It’s not my fault that I ended up in those situations, but I recognize that had I the proper tools and support, I probably would not have ended up in the situations I ended up in.

So I wonder now- was it a useful strategy to assume that calling him out would protect anyone else?

Perhaps some, but simply avoiding people does not give us the opportunity to practice our skills in setting boundaries and observing other’s behavior in real time.

Speaking from experience, having been in a healthy relationship for four years now, it was an incredibly empowering experience to use dating as a space to practice holding to my integrity, having hard discussions and watching how my partner engaged with conflict, and build trust in myself and my commitment to my own best interest.

A few years after I called my abuser out, I wrote an article about keeping yourself safe dating after abuse. What if from the start I had put my energy there instead, if my intention was to keep people safe?

I don’t have answers. I don’t even know how I really feel about my choices in the wake of my abuse. I grieve that my experience was filled with chaos. I grieve that I spent so many years in fear of probing these ethical questions because I was more committed to defending my own choices than I was looking honestly at the way we’ve built an entire culture around strategies that are causing immense damage.

While you don’t need mine or anyone’s permission to do so- I want to tell everyone who is sitting where I was sitting that you are allowed to ask questions. You are allowed to explore the complexity and nuance. You’re allowed to not even have fully formed thoughts. You are allowed to give space to thoughts and feelings that appear contradictory. It is worth your time and attention to do so.

For those Beginning to Question Cancel Culture

If you’ve called out your abuser and you are finding yourself resonating with critiques of call outs/cancel culture, but are also feeling defensive or afraid- I just want to say that you will find a lot of healing by allowing yourself to explore these ethical questions.

I also want to say that just because we are asking questions doesn’t mean the abuse you experienced isn’t real.

For a long time I have seriously struggled with the ethics around call outs. I knew that the directive to believe and center survivors without question was an easy way for someone to claim victimhood and alienate people without having to be accountable for it in any way.

I also knew that the criminal justice system and society at large did not support nor believe survivors and that call outs created space for truth telling and vindication that survivors could find nowhere else.

Finding a way to synthesize all of these things at once was intensely painful. I felt helpless in addressing the abuse I went through. Yet the path of choosing to call out my abuser brought me so much pain too.

I had thoroughly given up that intervention was possible- and being honest I don’t know that the tools or resources were available to me for a successful intervention to even happen. Those tools and resources are hardly available now.

If I learned anything from my experience though, it is that I don’t need my abuser to change to find my own growth and healing.

And I don’t need everyone who will listen to believe me, or even hear me to heal from what I experienced.

Being completely transparent, I don’t have coherent feelings about whether my choice to call out my abuser was really in my integrity or not. And that’s okay- I’m only recently starting to process all of this.

I know that the abuse was real. I know I’m not the only one my abuser targeted. I know that my choice had an impact on the person who abused me.

I know it’s not likely that we can have an honest conversation about any of it.

I know that I was angry as hell, that he had cancelled me behind my back before I ever got a chance to tell my story. I wanted my name to be cleared. I wanted to take back some control. I wanted him to be exposed and I wanted him to suffer for what he’d done.

I know those feelings are normal- I know that feelings don’t justify actions.

I know some part of me really did feel that I was protecting people at the time as well.

As time has gone on, the logic of that narrative has unraveled a bit- now I realize that people must be free to make their own choices.

I believe now that what may be more effective is to support others in getting in touch with their own integrity and help them learn how to spot and safely and effectively navigate abuse and manipulation for themselves.

Had I had those skills, I don’t think I would have been with the people who abused me longer than a few hours at the least, perhaps a few weeks at most. Looking back, the signs were there, and even if I saw no signs, abusers are typically not interested in people who keep strong boundaries and do not bend easily to manipulation.

I had grown up to believe my needs, my boundaries, my values and who I was did not matter.

It’s not my fault that I ended up in those situations, but I recognize that had I the proper tools and support, I probably would not have ended up in the situations I ended up in.

So I wonder now- was it a useful strategy to assume that calling him out would protect anyone else?

Perhaps some, but simply avoiding people does not give us the opportunity to practice our skills in setting boundaries and observing other’s behavior in real time.

Speaking from experience, having been in a healthy relationship for four years now, it was an incredibly empowering experience to use dating as a space to practice holding to my integrity, having hard discussions and watching how my partner engaged with conflict, and build trust in myself and my commitment to my own best interest.

A few years after I called my abuser out, I wrote an article about keeping yourself safe dating after abuse. What if from the start I had put my energy there instead, if my intention was to keep people safe?

I don’t have answers. I don’t even know how I really feel about my choices in the wake of my abuse. I grieve that my experience was filled with chaos. I grieve that I spent so many years in fear of probing these ethical questions because I was more committed to defending my own choices than I was looking honestly at the way we’ve built an entire culture around strategies that are causing immense damage.

While you don’t need mine or anyone’s permission to do so- I want to tell everyone who is sitting where I was sitting that you are allowed to ask questions. You are allowed to explore the complexity and nuance. You’re allowed to not even have fully formed thoughts. You are allowed to give space to thoughts and feelings that appear contradictory. It is worth your time and attention to do so.

Choosing integrity is choosing healing. Choosing to sit with complexity and be with the discomfort of not knowing is choosing growth.

Choosing integrity is choosing healing. Choosing to sit with complexity and be with the discomfort of not knowing is choosing growth.

About the Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may also like these