In a recent debate with a London community leader on the subject of personal accountability, I wrote the following. My friend A, whom I had asked to proof-read the message to help me eliminate any hostile language, suggested that this part of it should be made public. Here it is.
The majority of abuse happens between people who have been known to each other for some time. The most successful abusers are not people who are new on the scene and no-one knows anything about them – they are pillars of the community who know exactly how to act and what to say to keep people on their side. This statement applies to all instances of the word “community” – I have seen it happen in choirs, and in the context of live roleplaying groups. We all hear about it happening in religious groups. And it’s when people who have been abused by them come out and tell others around them what has happened that we start hearing the chorus of “but they couldn’t! They’re a nice person! You must be lying.”
And can you accuse anyone in this situation of failing to carry out due diligence? Everyone around the abuser is singing their praises. They would have no way of knowing, particularly if this is a repeat occurrence and other victims have been similarly silenced and ostracised. THIS is the most dangerous thing in any community, and no amount of due diligence is going to make the problem go away.
So by all means, carry on encouraging people to keep their own safety in mind. But please allow for the fact that relatively few people who make the accusation are lying. Encourage due diligence for community leaders and event planners, so that they check if people are known abusers. I often hear the argument that known abusers should not be banned from events. I respectfully disagree, and would counter that known abusers should not only be banned from events, but their pictures and usernames should be passed around all local events organisers so that they know who to watch out for. There could be a happy medium in asking DMs to keep a close eye on particular people at events, or in encouraging widespread use of things like Kinky Salon’s PAL system.
The only way to eliminate all facets of the abuse problem, from repeat offences to false accusations, is to put all of this stuff together.