We are all aware of the Me Too movement and its continued impact in increasing reports of sexual violence, assault and harassment at the hands of many influential men across all domains in the media — from music to news, tv and film.
While allegations cycle in this realm, we often see these abusers attempt to re-enter their social spheres — should they be accepted back?
Although the key phrases were coined over a decade ago, the rise of social media and a growing awareness of sexual abuse have allowed for the spread of the movement — empowering many victims of sexual violence, assault and harassment to name their abusers and share their stories. Those being called out have experienced a downfall in public opinion, and for some, what may seem like an end to their careers.
Recently, some of the influential personalities who were accused are slowly attempting to return to the public eye after a few months of staying hidden from view. Comedian Louis CK, for example, performed a surprise stand-up set in New York on Aug. 26 and received a standing ovation from fans who celebrated his comeback.
More recently, former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi published an essay in the New York Review of Books — a move which coincided with the editor of the publication’s resignation — in which Ghomeshi continues to deny allegations.
The thing is, sexual abusers don’t deserve a comeback. A comeback narrative is usually applied to an underdog who has struggled to endure hardships thrown their way. In cases of assault, the abusers are the ones in power and the victims are the ones who suffer — both in the moment and when coming forward with accusations.
A comeback also implies that the person in question has learned and grown in order to overcome the challenges they initially faced. Although the abusers may have lost a job or been cut from a TV show they starred in, they very rarely face legal punishment. The only struggle they are left to overcome is that of their tarnished image.
Meanwhile, the victims who come forward are also subject to scrutiny — faced with disbelief and often harassed by the public or blamed for the crime in question.
Survivors of sexual violence, assault and harassment undoubtedly must work through physical, mental and emotional struggles, and yet, they are never given the same support. If those who come forward with allegations have to fight to recover their own public image after the fact, why should the accusers be granted the privilege of a platform?
Sexual violence, assault and harassment are not an issue of sexuality but of power and dominance. Abusers have great influence over others who are not likely to speak out against abuse. Now, the Me Too movement has empowered victims, allowing them to come forward with their stories alongside many others — giving them strength in numbers.
However, sexual violence, assault and harassment will not be properly addressed if we don’t first take away power from those who abuse it in these ways. Holding people accountable for these crimes should mean stripping them of certain privileges and making sure they understand the consequences of their actions. It also means making sure that those they might have hurt are safe and on the path to being healed.
Sure, people like Louis CK and Jian Ghomeshi can’t really be barred from the public eye, but they should not be given a chance at a comeback. The return should not be on the abuser’s own terms.
Their return shouldn’t be celebrated but instead should serve as a sober reminder of the acts they have committed. It’s the survivors who should be kept in mind as they are the ones who were hurt first in these cases and then later scrutinized in the media while they continued to fight and speak out for themselves and others. That’s the real comeback story.
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