This past week, the digital security community had to confront the fact that a major figurehead in the movement is a rapist, after about a dozen people came out with stories of his sexual assault. I’d heard vague stories about him for a while. Mainly that he’d push people’s boundaries and disregard their consent. Even given what I knew, it was still horrifying to read what he had done to women.
What gets me the most is how he violated these individuals’ bodies, along with their trust, and the trust of an entire community who looked to him as a strong leader who spoke truth to power. He raped and assaulted people between public speeches advocating for transparency, democracy, and human rights. He did it, as he spoke out against other rapists and perpetrators of sexual assault and harassment.
It makes me wonder where else this rot lives. Who else in the social justice community is in fact themselves the embodiment of the social decay they publicly stand against? I wasn’t personally affected by him, but what he did and who he turned out to be shakes me to the core. The harsh contradiction between what he claimed to fight for and what he did to these women makes me feel vulnerable, the paranoid kind that makes me want to roll into a ball in my bed under the covers and never trust anyone ever again. It also makes me ANGRY. Red-in-the-face, spit-spraying, crying, shaking, anger.
But in the torrent of these feelings, I try to dig out and hold up the third: an immense pride and relief that these women spoke out. *They are heroes.* Despite so much fear and shame that this horrible scum-of-a-man subjected them to all this time, they managed to push it aside to speak out. It’s not even a question whether they did it for some self-serving purpose. It’s horrible to have to dig up those memories—even remembering my own minor incidents of sexual assault make me want to cave into myself. I can’t imagine how much emotional work it took to share them with the world.
Since the silence was broken, people I respect have stood by and denied the allegations. But so many more have stood with the victims. I can let the despair over the existence of rampant rape and sexual assault get to me—or, I can be inspired by these victims’ actions and honor their heroism by doing more to speak out against the violent force of patriarchy in my community as soon as I see it.