What Do We Owe When It Comes To Disclosing The Names Of Our Perpetrators?

October 18, 2017

Whew. We are having one mighty national conversation about assault and harassment lately. And I’m glad we are. I think it’s important.

But it is bringing up a lot!

I thought I’d talked all this to death, and I still didn’t talk much about one thing that seems to be coming up a lot…

Terry Crews bravely shared a story on twitter of being sexually assaulted. I love that he added his voice to the conversation, and shows that it doesn’t matter how big and strong you are or if you look like someone who can “fight back.” It’s still not always the safest option. I love that he added his voice to the conversation for many other reasons too. It was really brave.

But in his story, he didn’t name his perpetrator, and some people were upset. They were like, “What is even the point of saying this publicly if you won’t name the person?”

And some people have asked me why do I talk about this so much, but won’t publicly name my perpetrator either…

I think there’s still a lot to be gained by talking about all this without naming the perpetrators. There are a lot of important conversations within the overall big conversation about sexual assault. I do also think that naming the perpetrators can be helpful in some circumstances too. And people make some seemingly legitimate arguments that if we don’t speak their names, it’s just piling onto rape culture. It’s just all the same, all the time, everything happening in hiding.

But sometimes it doesn’t feel safe to release perpetrators names (and it might not be). Also, I would argue that no choice a survivor makes perpetuates rape culture. They’ve already had something terrible happen to them. They’re just trying to survive. We have a bunch of barricades in our way as is. It’s not survivors’ jobs specifically to fix rape culture, in my opinion.

And, of course(!) I think we should be looking out for other people who might sleep with or work with or whatever with the person. I do most definitely think we should be concerned with the well-being of others.

But we also have to watch our for ourselves.

So, if I shared his name in this blog, what would it do? He’s not famous. Y’all aren’t gonna like stop supporting him. You’re not supporting him as is. You don’t know who he is. (I mean, I guess unless you somehow are reading this and live in New York and happen to work with him or see a couple of tiny musicals in festivals around the city.)

But I don’t see any good coming from naming him here. And the thing is, I told the police. I talked to a lawyer. He’s already left my school. So, it’s not even like I could have him “expelled” or whatever we’d call it in our workshop program. He’s already gone.

So, I kind of feel like I’ve disclosed to anyone to whom it’s important/helpful. I mean, if one of my friends was talking about getting involved with him, I’d warn her to be careful. I feel like I’ll feel out situations as they come.

And it is hard, because I think I’ll run into those problems perhaps a little more than I anticipate. I just found out my first writing partner in BMI this year has written a mini musical with sexual assault guy. That was really hard to learn.

So, do I owe my BMI writing partner that information? I mean, the musical is written. It’s being performed somewhere next week. Telling him now won’t do anything. He can’t un-write the piece. I mean, he could consider whether he wants to work with that dude in the future. But, I dunno. Ultimately, I haven’t told him… partially because I don’t want my life to be telling people that sexual assault guy is a serial sexual assaulter. I feel like I’ve sort of “done my duty.” And I want to move on and live life as far away from him as I can manage.

So, that’s where I am on this right now.

What do we owe? What should we do? I don’t know. I think we’re just trying to navigate as safely as we can, trying to figure out what’s “helpful” what’s “moral” and on and on to both others – and ourselves – all along the way.

I'd love to hear from you! So whaddya say?