It’s Never A Surprise: On Open Secrets

By Anne T. Donahue

Following the sexual assault allegations made in last week’s exposé on Russell Brand last week, there was but one main consensus: nobody was surprised.

And isn’t that always the way? When a predator roams under the cover of darkness and/or systemic power, everybody knows before everybody knows. Those who’ve experienced the “advances” of a serial harasser/assaulter warn anybody they can, but we all know what’s next: nothing happens. Nothing happens for years and years, and then every so often, people like Russell Brand or Danny Masterson face some semblance of a reckoning, and then we hear about how “everybody knew.”

This routine makes me tired and sad, particularly since the years following the resurrected #MeToo proved that so much of the game hasn’t changed and is still thriving. What’s worse is the methods through which certain realities come to light depends entirely on those who’ve suffered at the hands of an offender. And then what happens? Those allegations are challenged by aggressive fanbases or people who refuse to believe rape culture is as prevalent as it is, and once a big name falls, enablers who protected him claim that they’d always known, that there was nothing they could really do, but now it’ll be better, they promise.

>But that’s a lie. We know that’s a lie, and we know that the only way to change our broken system is for those in power to prioritize the well-being of other people above their bottom line. We know that capitalism means sacrificing the safety of human beings in hopes of raking in big money. And we know that open secrets not only send the message that big machines will steamroll reports of predatory behaviour to ensure the money keeps coming, but that should another cash cow exhibits the same symptoms as another toppled entity, that predator will be protected for as long as they keep raking it in.

I hate it. And what’s worse, I hate that so-called revelations are greeted by the same “Oh, we all knew – and nobody cared!” rhetoric, because that’s how it works and is working and will continue to work for years and years. How many more survivors need to wave their trauma in hopes that it’ll be taken seriously? How many more times do we have to share our own experiences in hopes that it’ll create a tidal wave that will wipe out the status quo? What do we do? (I’m seriously asking.) Because for every Brand and Masterson, there are thousands of others, and while it seemed like there was a push to eliminate our industries from people like them, they’re still present, still working, still being promoted. How do we actually make a change?

I don’t normally like to raise big issues without offering some semblance of a solution, but how many more exposés do we need? How many Weinsteins need to fall? How do we establish a new norm, that infringing on somebody’s bodily (or mental or emotional) autonomy will end badly for the person who acts – not for the recipient? How do we maintain momentum without forcing survivors to relive their worst memories, over and over? How do we not lose hope?

The older I get, the surer I become that the only thing stopping me from losing almost all faith in everything is the reminder that once our hope is extinguished – that our fight is gone – it will get worse. (Somehow, it will always get worse.) I think about the progress that has been made, and that every so often, a big cog in a bigger machine finally breaks down and brings offending persons along with it. I think about the way language has changed; how people younger than me have words my friends and I didn’t, and that to surrender to the feeling of “everything’s shitty all the time!” makes their (and everyone else’s) lives worse. I think about how we have a responsibility to leave something better than how we find it, and that when we stop talking, we fail to do that.

I think that’s why I’m writing this: because I need to remind myself that as tired and defeated as I feel, the second hope is extinguished, everything will be lost. I want there to be day where “open secrets” are a source of shame for the people who keep them that way. I want predators to lose their power and to answer for their actions regardless of their status or how much money they bring in. I want survivors not to be met with “Well, why did you even meet up with him?” but with a list of steps that will be taken to ensure their bravery will see results. I want better because I know better exists, and that it won’t unless we keep the promise of it alive.

Need a little more Anne? Read more from Anne T. Donahue right here!

Tags: #metoo, Anne T. Donahue, top story, topstory

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