The more public face of the cover-up is the broad participation in a predictable narrative of apologism and a defense of the person called out. The steps taken by his supporters to construct these narratives often look the same–speak to the merit of the comrade who has been confronted and maybe gather others who have not been hurt by his actions to do so. Assist in any logic that allows him to seem like the victim of the survivor, including viscous and inaccurate depictions of the survivor’s behavior. Shift the scrutiny onto the survivor or the feminist grouping at large, or thoroughly examine their methodology to see if there is fault there. If there is a political fall-out, blame the women for having caused polarization and division. Some form of this narrative emerges, with every case, as part of the cover-up–in order to complicate, distract from or question the accusations.
Survivor stories are rarely made up and our starting point has to be believing and supporting the survivor. Once you go down the road of disbelief and questioning, however, the logic of rape and abuse apologism is inevitable. In fact, in our society this apologism is simply common sense and anybody without an explicit political understanding and critique of this apologism will most likely fall into these same patterns.
There have also been concerns raised about the “complexity” of these issues, as though abusive and patriarchal acts are somehow complex. This reasoning is reminscent of the conservative discourse in the 1990s concerning sexual abuse during the Anita Hill hearings, that “there was a grey area.” During this time even liberal feminists responded that actually power is pretty “black and white.” This “complexity” idea takes the varying concerns for both the survivor and the abuser and places them on the same level. In London, an investigation was carried out to determine whose story was accurate. In Portland the same, and we are asked to consider whether survivors should be “in charge” of an accountability process, and whether there is a tension between survivor support and abuser accountability. Inherent in both cases is an even handed approach that places the survivor and the abuser on the same level. As with all “even-handed” approaches, it cannot help but reinforce the dominant forms of oppression in our society. There also seems to be an underlying concern, in both cases, that the survivor is reckless and erratic and just might bring all of our good work down if we let them. It is hard not to see this sort of attitude as patriarchy reproduced in our movement.