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Victims

Posted by: | June 4, 2014 | 6 Comments |

I’m not sure I’ve ever been as disappointed in my edu-network as I have been in the last 48 hours.

I watched as a blog post written by a young woman went viral. She detailed events as she remembered them, and they were hard to read.

I watched as my friends and people I admire reposted and retweeted this blog post. They shared it with horrified comments and mutual disgust.

Out of all those friends who shared the viral post, ONE thought to consider and comment about the fact that we were reading only one side of the story.

ONE PERSON.

We read stories about victims, and we want to immediately support them.

I get that.

We absolutely should support victims and then try to do what we can to change the culture around us.

However, we need to be certain we don’t create additional victims in doing so. And that’s exactly what I saw happening today.

There’s a reason we don’t try cases in the “court of public opinion.” Mob mentality rarely looks at facts or the reasons for due process.

When due process is ignored, we open the door to persecute those who have been falsely accused. Some of them never recover. Additionally, that often leads to more victims being ignored or treated as if they are not truthful.

I’m involved in this particular situation, because I was a witness to the events of one of those accounts in the viral post. My recollection of those facts are different from what was written. I’m not going to discuss any of those things here, because I have already done so by phone with the parties involved. I have supported people on both “sides” of this situation, and I will continue to do so.

IN PRIVATE.

Do I want to change the culture around me to make it a better, safer, more supportive place? Yes.

I will not push my agenda, however, at the expense of any person’s reputation, no matter what I THINK might have happened. Instead of raising awareness about a bigger cultural issue, this has become a “witch hunt.”

If you do not personally know the facts about events that took place, who are you to make a judgment about another person’s character? And what are the implications on people’s lives if what you think happened did NOT happen?

I have watched as people have assailed the character of the young woman in this situation.

I have watched as people have assailed the character of one of the men she has implicated.

NONE of you making these judgment calls were there, yet you’re calling for people to ban the accused from attending conferences. Calling for people to unfollow them and un-invite them from any future conferences. Demanding or acting entitled to details and explanations that should have been handled privately in the first place.

How about we take off our judging hats, listen more, and ask what would be the best course of action for the future?

There are REAL lives that will be affected now. How did YOUR actions in the last 48 hours hurt the people involved? (ALL of the people, not just the one you choose to support.)

Every person involved in this situation is someone’s child.

Did you stop to think that this was someone’s son or daughter? Did you consider that maybe there were other loved ones who are now impacted by your actions as well?

Or did you not consider that before pressing the retweet or share button?

I teach my students to think critically before the share anything publicly. So do many of you.

I saw some people learn the hard way today that they can’t really take back what they have posted or shared.

Now, the question is, how will they make amends for the damage they have done?

And…

How will you change your future actions in deciding what you share and how you share?

under: Uncategorized

6 Comments

  1. By: Mark Moran on June 4, 2014 at 10:55 pm      Reply

    Michelle, this post is courageous, well-stated, and much-needed, not only in this situation but in similar ones that seem to arise every day. Students aren’t the only ones who “believe everything they read on the Internet” and fail to think critically or thoroughly consider all viewpoints. In most of today’s society, it is a rare person who does not fall into that trap.

  2. By: Barbara Bray on June 4, 2014 at 11:59 pm      Reply

    Michelle,
    I applaud you for this post and wish more would stand up for what they believe. I find myself hesitating to take a position on a political point of view because I might “offend” someone who doesn’t believe as I do. Yet, I really believe in something and should stand behind my beliefs. Or at least fight for them.

    My mother was a courtroom artist and we lived amongst reporters. They talked about writing without bias. That is different now because of the Internet. It is real easy to say anything without backing it up with credible evidence or research. Anyone can blog and be a citizen reporter now. Anyone can say something about another person and destroy their character without any proof.

    We need more conversations like this and to teach how and why things can be framed so the reader gets caught up in the lie or the witch hunt.

    Thank you for taking this stand and let’s keep talking about this.
    Barbara

  3. By: Robyn on June 5, 2014 at 7:23 am      Reply

    Thanks for this post and for the thoughtful responses to it. I really appreciate the title of your post and how you started with the event that precipitated all of this, a woman bravely sharing her experience. Because of the probably well-intentioned but nonetheless inappropriate action of naming names, I worry that the fact that a woman was harassed will become a secondary issue. I wholeheartedly agree that jumping to conclusions, shaming without exercising due diligence, and internet sleuthing in general are bad ideas and diminish the credibility of educators as online role models. In addition to this very valid issue, let us not forget that in naming names, which the original blogger chose not to do, she had her power taken away from her AGAIN. I also worry that her credibility will be called into question and the support she deserves, as you rightfully highlighted, could be lessened. Even discussions of witch hunts, which are valuable, I fear are detracting from her story and the fact that she did something very difficult in coming forward. Just wanted to share my opinion that there is definitely one victim here, possibly more, but one for certain and I hope she doesn’t get overshadowed by secondary issues.

  4. By: Elana Leoni on June 6, 2014 at 12:29 pm      Reply

    Thank you Michelle. This is such a complicated and quite frankly, disturbing issue. As you pointed out, sometimes when bad things happen, we do tend to get our pitchforks out, without all of the facts.

    In a courtroom or in good media (with actual journalists) that’s exactly what they’d do. Get many accounts, witnesses, and facts.

    As it did with #YesAllWomen, Ariel’s post brought up an issue that resonated with so many and I want to make sure that we don’t forget that. In our industry and community of educators, there is sexual discrimination and harassment. It’s up to all of us to be aware of it and proactively takes step to stop it from happening. So often we sweep it under the rug and make excuses for it and I’m hoping that the good thing out of all of this will come an awareness and (hopefully) action.

    My $.02….

  5. By: John T. Spencer on June 6, 2014 at 10:27 pm      Reply

    I’m bothered by the number of people who point out that this has brought awareness. Awareness at what cost? I’ve witnessed slander and libel. I’ve seen people chomping at the bit to tear a person down. That’s not okay.

    • By: Robyn on June 7, 2014 at 10:25 am      Reply

      I agree, it’s not okay. I would like to highlight that the alleged slander and libel were not the result of the victim coming forward, they were the result of the actions of another person entirely. I just want to be careful that we’re not conflating the two separate events.

      As for the awareness piece, I’m not sure we need more awareness, we need more people to act because sexual harrassment is not okay. Certainly this should not be done by jumping to conclusions, uttering slanderous statements, or, above all, speaking for a victim, and indeed it can be done without those harmful byproducts.

      Finally, I’m not trying to speak for the victim here, sometimes trying to find a “silver lining” like awareness can feel like it cheapens the whole experience. It’s okay for nothing about sexual harrassment to be positive and I think we should be careful that, with the best of intentions, we do not inadvertently make people who have experienced it feel wrong or bad for not feeling hopeful or positive in some way.

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