Those who argue for respectability and moderation serve the purposes of the predators who wish to go about their business unchallenged.
Larissa Boyce stated in court that when she was 16, Larry Nassar had sexually assaulted her and another 14 year old girl by putting his hands inside their vaginas. Her coach Kathie Klages interrogated her and reported back to Larry Nassar. As an extra kick in the gut, Nassar then forced Boyce to apologise to him.
By Autumn 2018 it had ‘become commonplace to describe the 499 known victims of Larry Nassar as “breaking their silence,” though in fact they were never, as a group, particularly silent’. Over the at least 20 years of Nassar’s sexual abuse of female athletes they told everyone but no one would listen. The girls were punished, made to feel like they were wrong until they believed that themselves. He had chosen his predatory support cast well – his unknowing enablers, enforcers, his silencers, his ‘but he’s my friend’. He had built his reputation and worked himself into a position which didn’t just provide him access to victims but made him seem too big to challenge. Then the last and predictable kick in the teeth for the victims, when finally their suffering was undeniable, those who hushed them up or clapped the predator along for personal gain pronounced ‘well we couldn’t have known, he was always nice to me’.
The predator, as we have seen with the current predatory movement, will exploit your idealism, your desire to help others, to make the world a better place. They come cloaked in optimism and hope because they are intense students of human character and understand that the majority of people have good intentions. As so few people would actively wish to cause suffering to others, by the time they realise that something is wrong they will have been entrapped by the exploiter. Made to feel like an accomplice. For example, ‘If you agree to prosecute you can stop him doing this to others’ is too frequently said to rape victims and child sexual abuse survivors. The personal guilt, shame and embarrassment that they have some responsibility in harming others often acts as a powerful silencing tool for those who were groomed by the predator. If that is not enough, they have seen how other whistleblowers and questioners have received public retaliation and thus may just keep their heads down. I know these feelings because it happened to me, I have been groomed before, I am not immune to it even after studying and writing about it, and I suffered the consequences of saying ‘this doesn’t feel right’.
We all have in some way – think of the vitriol, the cancelling, the attempted social shaming when you questioned transgender ideology. Think of the confusion, the fuzzy headed feeling leading up to you questioning and in the aftermath: that was the product of gaslighting. It is happening again, as women question the idea of ‘true trans’ or if sometimes men are women, or that sometimes we should pretend so. The slogan ‘trans women are women’, and the new one ‘some trans women are women’ and ‘we need to compromise’ is a test. It is designed to determine who will look the other way and who will bend their principles. Just as women ‘sh*t test’ men to try and determine their true intentions and how safe they are to be around, so too do predators test their prey.
Abusers do not have to be as big as Nassar to control the narrative and silence whistleblowers and victims. The threat of social ostracization, bullying, public punishment and having your reputation dragged through the mud can be enough. Think of how ‘transphobe’ and cancel culture has operated recently to frighten people away from challenging a dangerous ideology. Abigail Bray, in her work Misogyny Reloaded, describes social ostracization as ‘micro-fascism’ to enforce social submission. It is when former friends distance themselves, others are warned not to be associated with you, party and event invitations dry up, maybe you lose work opportunities, rumours are spread behind your back, because you have questioned or challenged a man or another woman’s intentions. It also sends a loud message: we will do it to you too, keep in line. It underscores the point that the men who are the biggest threat are the ones you will be punished for questioning. Indeed, think of the attacks on women who dare to question men in our own, supposedly female and child safeguarding centred, movement.
Retaliation & Punishment
Predators move through the world and get away with their abuse for years through retaliation against victims and those who raise concerns. It is never just one victim, it is a pattern. This is also why sexual predators don’t hide in the background but place themselves front and centre and wrap themselves in political, religious, charity, or celebrity status. They understand that a cause will provide them access, cover, status and that those involved will often care more about reputation and the ego of those who welcomed the predator in than those calling them out.
This is why ‘reputation above principles’ is highlighted again and again. For example, a 2016 report following an inquiry into how the culture at the BBC enabled Savile’s crimes found that BBC staff were “more worried about reputation than the safety of children”. In the wake of the sexual abuse of vulnerable women and children by Oxfam staff, and following an independent report, Stephen Twigg, chairman of the international development committee, said charities were “more concerned to protect their own reputation” than to challenge sexual abuse and predatory behaviour. Similarly, in November 2009 the Murphy report stated that a cover-up of Catholic priests sexually abusing children in Dublin had taken place because the church placing its own reputation above the protection of the children in its care. Reputation is why in 2022 the Whyte report showed how children as young as seven were abused in British Gymnastics in a culture described as ‘medals above welfare’.
To protect one’s personal reputation and that of their cause or association, is an obvious and easy need for them to fulfil. Choosing and maintaining enforcers and enablers is a process, just as victims are chosen from a set.
The predator will arrive on the scene and force team their targets, claiming that they are fighting for the same ends and ideals. Over-friendliness when none has been encouraged such as the use of first names or nicknames is a warning sign. The exploiter is trying to use the social contract to establish false rapport with you and link themselves to you in other people’s minds. It is incredibly difficult to point out, particularly to other observers, that ‘no we are not friends, why are they using my nickname, why are they being so friendly with me?’ Read that back, how odd and nasty does the person raising this concern sound? We are not socially conditioned to be like that. It is the same with ‘no, I will not compromise’. We are not conditioned to say that, or to like people who say that. But, think about what they are asking of women: which women and girls should be put at risk, what is it about ‘no’ and female boundaries that you cannot understand? This manipulation of the social contract opens an opportunity for DARVO on the exploiter’s part and will usually begin the process of social exclusion of the person raising concerns about them or standing firm.
Those who have been taken in by the predator will then experience love bombing. They will be exalted by the manipulator for their reasonableness/caring/higher understanding. They are presented as special. Soon the predator will come with a, usually unsolicited, offer or gift. ‘I can get you a wider reach’, ‘I can use my status to amplify your voice and cause’, ‘I can prove you are not a transphobe’, ‘I can take on some of the work’. If you accept the offer or the gift from the predator they will begin ‘debt calculation’. I usually explain this as the concept of ‘women as vending machines’, the idea that if you put kindness tokens in then you earn a reward. It can be as micro and explicit as demands for sex because he bought you dinner, or sometimes as macro and expressed as ‘look at all I have sacrificed for the cause’. ‘You owe me’ is a predator’s coercive mantra.
Gavin De Becker famously warned that “If you let someone talk you out of the word no, you might as well wear a sign on your chest that says “you are in charge” . This protective mantra was summarised by de Becker as ‘no is a complete sentence’ but that, although powerful and punchy, doesn’t really capture de Becker’s warnings on compromise and predatory behaviour. Trying to negotiate over ‘no’ and what that ‘no’ represents – boundaries and self-belief – is a red flag for danger. De Becker elucidated how “Declining to hear no is a signal that someone is either seeking control or refusing to relinquish it. With strangers, even those with the best intentions, never, ever relent on the issue of ‘no’ because it sets the stage for more efforts to control you.”
‘I wish you would stop personally attacking allies… it’s harming the cause’ shout men and women at women who are yet again raising a concern at predatory behaviour, boundary violation, and safeguarding risks. They are talking about reputation of a political movement, and thus their personal reputations, being more important than safeguarding. These men and women will then, one suspects, muse on how Savile got away with it when he was saying who he was, when it was clear and bemoan that nobody listened because she had watched a television documentary. Well let me be clear: you are how predators get away with it.
This is why whistle-blowers are not listened to, this is why women are nervous about saying that something is not right, because we know that the men will have a troop of enforcers at their disposal to tar us. This is why, in personal anecdote, women spread that I shouldn’t be platformed because I have ‘bad character’ – just say it: ‘she’s a manhater/feminazi/bitch’ and you want to be liked by men.
Why do some men and women never consider the harm they do to the cause by attacking other women in defence of a male, or male wants in general? The hypocrisy, as they do that which they accuse others of. As women attempt to silence women who raise genuine and well evidenced concerns supported by experience in the field of safeguarding and male violence, I always wonder what cause they think they are fighting for. If it is feminism, why is she publicly attacking women who are asserting feminist principles and taking risks to safeguard women and children? Why are they privately bullying women who speak out? If it is feminism, why are women pedestaling men over women, particularly males who personify misogynistic ideology? Also, how do you know that this man is an ally? By his words alone, because he says so? How feminist.
It is frequently justified with an attempt to use cascaded responsibility. That the ‘British Public’ and politicians must be persuaded. I have found that they are not stupid and speaking clearly is more effectual. When I speak to ordinary people I do not have to persuade them that women and girls need single-sex spaces away from men and that there is no such thing as a female penis. If you think we have to be appealing to men when we demand that they respect our rights and boundaries I think you underestimate the decency present in normal men. When they hear clearly what is going on they are on our side. It confuses the matter greatly when we argue that sex is real and we require privacy but then champion a man who sexualises toddlers and writes policies removing girl’s single sex-spaces in schools.
I understand that in normal circumstances friendliness is more persuasive than a sledge-hammer approach. You are absolutely right there. However, we are defending women’s rights and children’s safety, every day we muddy the waters and endorse their ideologies more women and children are harmed. How many girls with their breasts removed, their bodies butchered, because they don’t feel like a barbie princess is okay to you so we can take the softly, softly style? How many rapes and violations to take the gentle approach of political persuasion? Stop pushing accountability for what you want and think onto others. Claiming this mystical British public or onlookers or unnamed observers with the power to act need us to ‘be political’ or ‘be appealing’ and thus be wishy-washy in the idea that women and girls deserve unassailable sex-based rights is a cop-out, and an unconvincing one at that.
Where were your cause observers with power when it took until 7th June 2022 to make non-fatal strangulation a crime? Where were your cause observers, your unnamed ‘public’, when it took until 2021, after an 18 month campaign, to get the government to recognise that women do not want to be tortured and beaten to death in so-called ‘rough-sex’? Where are your cause observers now that the Appeal caught is still sticking to the idea that she asked to be killed? Where were your cause observers, your mystical general public, when the rape conviction rate dropped to under 1% in England and Wales, effectively legalising it? Or were we women just not nice enough about it? Can you name which woman screwed it for us because she said ‘no’ a bit too forcefully?