When the American Civil War was over, Lincoln granted amnesty to all soldiers. That is, he gave specific orders that all soldiers were to be allowed safe passage home without any harassment. Who was wrong and who was right no longer mattered in the same way because Lincoln finally got what he wanted and what America needed: union and peace.
The whole Tony Jones and Julie McMahon issue that has been going for many years but which came to a more full light when Julie finally gave her version of events uncensored and uncensured on this blog post just last September has come to an interesting place.
More people are starting to believe Julie.
I’m happy about this. But I want to be clear what I’m happy about. I’m happy that Julie’s story is finally being heard and believed. It’s not about that she’s going to win and Tony’s going to lose. Although this is an issue, it has never been the core issue for me.
It was about a woman being heard as a “reliable witness to her own life” (Rebecca Solnit).
But now that more evidence and even proof is emerging showing that Julie’s story has substance, people are now changing their minds and lending support to her. Some are patting themselves on the back and being patted on the back for now believing Julie. Others are suspicious that they are fair-weather friends, drifting wherever the powered or popular opinion blows them.
On the one hand, this is good. Like Lincoln and the union, Julie is getting what she wanted and needed. She’s being heard, believed, and vindicated. Let’s rejoice that more people are listening!
On the other hand, have we learned anything? Even though things may change for Julie, will things change for victims? This is my burning question.
For example, when Matthew Paul Turner says, “I can no longer stay neutral… Much of the documentation provided here tells a story that I wasn’t, until now, privy to”, this indicates to me that things haven’t changed. (edit later in the day: Turner deleted this post without explanation, which explains why the link is dead. But he did say this.)
- First of all, when we do not believe a victim, we are not being neutral but adversarial.
- Secondly, when we believe the alleged abuser and silence the alleged victim, it betrays our fascination for preserving the privileges of power.
- Thirdly, it’s never been about proof. It’s about listening to victims share their experiences and believing them. This doesn’t mean we don’t believe the alleged abuser. This doesn’t mean we don’t realize there are complications and that all parties share some responsibility. But we allow both sides to share tell their story from the beginning and then let the evidence and facts start rolling in as they certainly will and in this case certainly have.
I was in communication, and still am, with the alleged abused. I tried to stay in communication with the alleged abuser and friends, but I have either been told explicitly to stop attempting contact, or my contact has been cut off with them by them, or they’ve made it clear they will have nothing to do with me ever again. You see, controlling the story has worked up to the present. However, now the story is out of authoritative control and is in the hands of the people.
Lisa and I were talking about this this morning over coffee. She agrees that the issue is believing victims. That’s the core issue. We’re happy a victim has finally been heard.
But look at what she and her supporters had to go through: threats; intimidation; ridicule; loss of friends; debt; years or months of sleeplessness, stress and anxiety;self-doubt; fear; demands for proof of medical records, police reports, emails, and court documents; then finally being believed not because you are a person but only because you produce authoritative authentication. In fact, they don’t believe her but the authorities and their documents.
So here are my 7 questions:
- Are we still not going to believe victims until all the facts are in?
- Are victims guilty until proven innocent?
- Are women’s stories automatically held in suspicion?
- Are we still more impressed with power than the victims of it?
- Are we going to believe the first official report of events?
- Are we enamored by leaders to the point of moral blindness?
- Are women the most reliable witnesses of their own lives?
As we can read through all the comments and related posts, many women have experienced and are experiencing the very same thing: abuse, silencing and not being believed. Some people want to believe this is sporadic and rare. No! It is pandemic and common.
Unless we learn a lesson from this story, this will continue to repeat itself over and over and over again.
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