Dear Subversive Shrink,
Over the course of my professional life, it has come to my attention that some people whom I’ve corresponded with have been outed as rapists or abusive people. A few in particular have good standing in their communities, and their abusive personalities are not known outside of a select group of people. I consider myself to be an ally and, as a self-identifying cis-male feminist, and someone who has not myself experienced abuse of this kind—strive to hold people accountable for their actions. My question is this: Is it appropriate to divulge information about abusive people in a professional setting? Additionally, what sort of communication is effective in combating rape culture in a professional setting?
Dear Concerned Ally,
It’s disquieting to discover the cracks in the façade of our communities, especially when we feel an isolated awareness that others within our shared system are not apprised of inner realities. It’s an important yet intricate call to action.
My first consideration feels a bit dialectic: Do we use non-consent as a weapon against abusers? In this instance, would it be ethical to share private information about someone’s interpersonal issues without their permission? In that case, are we re-capitulating the harmful dynamic? My spidey senses tingle on this thought and indicate that “outing” people rarely seems growth-inducing. However, as an ally, we must name those once-shameful, hidden social issues that are allowed to fester if the empire of silence rules unchecked. As Audre Lorde said, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” In this case, outing abusers and shaming them is using their own weapons against them. To be better allies, we must craft better tools.
It feels important to note that your professional culture and ethics are major considerations. In my line of work, abuse and risks to safety often require reporting. If your workplace has an ethics code, brush up and become empowered via information. Know what you are expected or required to address and how. Also, explore your workplace culture and the safety of reporting and know who will support you. It takes a village to be an ally!
Jackson Katz, a fellow male-identified feminist, arrived at what feels like a realistic roadmap for alliance against abuse and gender violence (jacksonkatz.com/wmcd.html). Here, he stresses the need to invite accountability directly with abusers alongside systematic social justice advocacy. This is hard work that requires a balancing act of compassion and assertiveness. It’s mental and emotional gymnastics indeed, and it’s the first of several critical steps to being a part of further deconstructing the rotting foundation of patriarchy.
The Subversive Shrink