tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
[personal profile] tim
"There’s a theme here: that silence and secrecy are the paramount values, and open discussion is to be avoided. It’s a basic function of institutions, but often of informal social networks as well, to protect the body from reputational damage. That’s what colleges do with rape: they use nondisclosure agreements so that whatever the result, nobody can talk about it. When I was in college and there was an accusation of a sexual assault on a woman I sort of knew, I got the account from her, and she said it happened and I believed her, so I told anyone who would listen about the perp. So the administration told me I’d be punished if I didn’t shut up. That’s how it happens. Not talking about it is rule #1."

-- Thomas MacAulay Millar, There’s A War On Part 3: A Fungus Among Us (TW for descriptions of rape and of personal and cultural abuse)

This makes me realize that when I was at Portland State and I ended up getting kicked out because I requested to not have to work with the guy I witnessed making a "joke" about raping another student, I didn't just get kicked out because the faculty didn't like having their authority questioned. It was also that if I had been granted that exemption (an exemption that was, of course, granted to every other graduate student -- nobody had to work with someone they didn't want to work with), I would have also talked about *why* that was. Especially if there were new students who were women, or who were non-heterosexual, or who were gender non-conforming, I would have told them that this guy was a creep, that he was still in the program, and that it's best to avoid him. And that would have undermined their confidence in the ability of the department and the university to create a safe working environment. So rather than addressing the problem and making the environment safer, the answer was to kick me out so I couldn't tell.

(It was Thomas Dubuisson, I have it on good authority that he's not sorry, and I hope he never works in a position where he'll have power over anybody.)

I am still assuming that universities, churches, and other social institutions have a purpose other than to shelter the abuse of vulnerable people... but I'm also still having a hard time seeing what it is, on a practical level. And I think the passage above points out how secrecy and silencing aren't to protect the victim's privacy, because the victim doesn't usually get asked for their say in the matter. No... it's to protect the institution so that the institution can keep on hosting abuse.
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Tim Chevalier

September 2017

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