Saturday, August 17, 2013

Mr Deity responds, but it's not good enough

Mr Deity has responded to the criticisms I and others have made of his last video:

Firstly, the good - it's good to see that he does not engage in victim blaming, and makes it very clear that when it comes to rape, the fault is always on the rapist, and not on the victim. I applaud him for this: "Only a few people know this, but the absolute final straw that caused me to leave the Mormon Church had to do with the idea that a woman could be complicit in the case of rape, and that a woman (or even a girl) could "loose her virtue" even if it was taken from by force — against her will."

However, there are still some issues. He defends his bit on the alcohol, which came across as victim blaming:

"As evidence of the supposed "M.O." of the accused, PZ quoted a woman who tells the following story...
The accused "was the guest of honor at an atheist event I attended in Fall 2006... I got my book signed, then at the post-speech party, [the accused] chatted with me at great length while refilling my wine glass repeatedly. I lost count of how many drinks I had. He was flirting with me and I am non-confrontational and unwilling to be rude, so I just laughed it off. He made sure my wine glass stayed full. And that's the entirety of my story."
My bit with the wine and refusing the refill was in response to that paragraph in PZ's post only. Please note that alcohol is not mentioned with regard to the original allegation. Only that the accuser was coerced into a position where she could not consent — which, honest to deity, I'm still not sure I understand what that means."

This isn't good enough. OK, maybe he was picking on particular incident, but it doesn't come across like that in his original video. By "subtly" talking about the accusations and rumours by talking about the Gospels instead, he makes it sound like he is talking generally about things. Further more, he may have been prompted by an individual incident, but he finishes his section on alcohol, and I quote:

"to those of you without a backbone or any personal sense of responsibility".

He's clearly addressing people, not a person, and there's talk of personal responsibility - I don't understand how calling someone's personal responsibility into question isn't victim blaming, especially as it pertains to the alleged MO of the accused. It may not have been his intent to victim blame, but that is what he did.

I agree that trial by internet is not a good way to go about these things (just look at this poor pub that had to close because of malicious rumours), but to only consider an accusation of rape or sexual assault "when such a report is clear, detailed, and put forth directly" is to not grasp what it is like coming forward with such accusations. Details, for example, may be the last thing somebody wants to rehash, because, you know, they're the actual details of how they've been raped.

Yes, there are better ways for all of these allegations to be handled, but these are serious accusations, and should be taken seriously, not dismissed because they're anonymous or lack detail.

From the Rape Crisis Centre's "What not to do" section:

"Don't pressure them into doing, or talking about things they are not ready to face. When they are ready they will speak.

Women are often afraid of how other people will react to what has happened to them, they may fear not being believed, embarrassment, having their experiences minimised or trivialised, even fear rejection. Women often fear well-meaning, but ignorant questions such as: "Why didn't you tell me before now?" "Why didn't you scream?" "Why didn't you tell someone?" "Why don't you report it to the police?" "Why did you (encourage him / wear that skirt / walk that route / etc.)?" If you do not understand why a woman is behaving in a particular way, or is reacting the way she is now, remember that this is YOUR problem, NOT HERS. Do not badger her with questions or ask her questions, which you are not sure, whether she will want to answer; read a book instead."

Can you see why people might not put details forward, or do things anonymously?

Again, I do not know if the allegations are true. What I do know is that if they are, a lot of this reaction isn't helping.

Also,  It's not as if they have been made entirely anonymously any way - the accusations were emailed to PZ Myers who put them on his blog. He knows the identity of the accusers. Given that the accused's lawyers have stepped in, I expect and hope that the truth of these claims will come to light.

PS For more background and links on all this, you really must check out Have Notebook, Will Travel's post on the issue.


  1. In comment 51 in PZ's "grenade thread, PZ says:

    "The coercion involved a rather standard technique for this sort of thing: alcohol. Lots of alcohol."

  2. Even if the allegations are NOT true, a lot of this reaction isn't helping.

  3. Certainly sounds like a lot of people owe him an apology.

  4. No, he's not due an apology. Not yet awhile.

    People who have confused the issue, set out to muddy the waters, spouted rubbish which can be proved to be untrue, allowed a friendship to cloud their judgement, and made it clear they do not care are in a queue.

    It's a long queue. At the front of it are all the women and the men who have been raped, who have been groped, who have been humiliated when they tried to report and who have generally been given the runaround.

    As I say, it's a very long queue.

  5. "In comment 51 in PZ's "grenade thread, PZ says:
    "The coercion involved a rather standard technique for this sort of thing: alcohol. Lots of alcohol."

    Mr Diety worked with Shermer on a few videos no? So he could know that detail about it from Shermer himself. Considering that this guy doesn't consider non-consensual sex to be rape, Shermer could've told him the story and Mr. Diety would've, I don't know, high-fived him or something.

  6. The thing is how to differentiate false claims, however rare they are. Are we not a nation that would rather have a guilty person walk free than an innocent go to jail?
    I'm 100% for supporting victims and investigating every claim and giving women (and men) every opportunity to come forward (anonymously if needed) but we really must not jump on every claim and ruin people's lives, it happens for other claims (child abuse) and really ruins lives, tears up families without any possibility of restoration if the claims turn out to be false, in such situations I'm also very inclined to give the victims all the benefits of doubt and insist that every claim is verified but I'm also inclined to support a system that would keep personal information of all parties out of the public sphere until the legal system is involved and allows it. And this regardless of the (wealth,public,...) status of victim or abuser.