Community, Trust, Responsibility, Consequences

This post may be triggering for some as it contains discussions of rape, sexual assault, and community responses to such.

I promised to write this post last week, but unfortunately preparations for BlogHer took up more spoons than I anticipated. Plus, I’ve been dealing with a lot of intense emotions around the issue and it kept me from posting publicly for a while. But I feel it’s important for several reasons, all of which you will understand by the end of this post. I’m placing the bulk of it under a cut, just in case.

Part the First

First thing (and this is the shortest section of this post, so feel free to scroll past), I want to state unequivocally that I believe Jack, who says that Kynn raped him. I believe this not only because I’ve read both Jack and Alexandra’s version of events, but also because I read Kynn’s version of the events. I’ve seen her post, which has now been removed, and I’ve seen some emails sent to Jack which were shared online.

In the post defending herself, Kynn posted chat transcripts that showed she apologized for what she did and stated that she did them unintentionally. Okay. But then at the close of her post she says she didn’t rape Jack because what she did wasn’t intentional and also Jack and Alexandra must have something against her to bring up these charges now. That makes no sense. No matter how unintentional, she did what she did. And what she did was rape.

Part the Second

Ever since this first came out, there has been much discussion about it and some side-taking, as one would expect in this kind of situation. Apart from that, I find myself further saddened by the impact it’s had on our community, of which Kynn was part. I’m talking about the group of people tied together by our mutual love and appreciation for SF/F genre (i.e. fandom) who also discuss, deconstruct, and fight against bigotry and prejudice, both within our community and in our lives in general.

Kynn has acted as an ally in discussions and activist endeavors. She self-identifies as a feminist. On the face of it, not the kind of person you’d expect to act in the way she did.

Which is why the impact on our community has rubbed people raw. And I am both angry and heartbroken because the net result is that some of us are yanking back on the reigns of our trust for others in the community. I saw at least two people on my Flist talk about the need to unfriend/separate from anyone they knew connected to Kynn no matter what they’ve said in support of Jack or of Kynn because they don’t feel safe staying connected to Kynn-connected folks. I don’t condemn that feeling, I understand that feeling, but it makes me sad to see it.

Community is often built around trust. Definitely activist communities. We come together so we can share and support and bolster and feel less like the voices telling us we’re wrong might be right. When that trust breaks, it hurts.

More than anything else, I want to do what I can to help us all as a group continue to have a strong, trusting community. I want to have a conversation around this because I certainly don’t have the answers.

Part the Third

I’m feeling less sure about including this part of the post because it’s more personal, but it relates to community and who we choose to let in the circle of trust. A lot of this is my feelings, though, and not some grand statement from the President of the Black Mafia, okay?

I’ve known Kynn online for several years, at first through commenting on LiveJournal and other blogs then more via IM/chat. Like I said, Kynn presented herself as an ally and activist and had my back through multiple situations. I always appreciated that. And because of these actions, I ignored some stuff I shouldn’t have.

I ignored the way Kynn sometimes went after people who disagreed with her, sometimes because I felt the people she went after needed going after. There’s a line between not letting up on calling a person on their racist actions/words and unconstructive verbal battery — there were times Kynn crossed that line.

And honestly? I’m not anyone’s mother. There is no presidency of the Black Mafia. There is no fail fandom and I am not the behavior police. I didn’t feel it was my place to tell Kynn how to go about doing what she did, and I am always reluctant to go chiding allies in public because the people who need straightening out would just use it as ammunition (as they’ve done already surrounding this issue). But I will say that I should have followed my instinct to at least express my discomfort with some of Kynn’s actions in private.

On a more personal level, I also often felt that Kynn was very eager to have a closer relationship with me than our acquaintance warranted. Not an intimate relationship, but something that would move toward being BFFs. That kind of closeness has to develop organically — it can’t be forced, even if you share a common belief with a person. Kynn’s efforts to become a close friend always bothered me. That and a few other aspects of our conversations. Still, I pushed my own doubts away on several occasions. I worried about being too judgmental or stuck up or just selfish.

However, given the people speaking up to illuminate aspects of Kynn’s personality and manipulations, I’m now convinced that the doubts that I had were justified after all. I’ve come around to thinking that part of the reason she wanted to be close to me is that I’m part of the “in crowd” in social justice fandom, and that this relationship would allow her greater access to the group and to legitimacy within the group.

I will always continue to fight against being judgmental, selfish and stuck up because it’s always a good thing to check yourself. But I will also listen more to my instincts and not simply accept that any person’s actions are for the good or their friendly overtures are sincere simply because we share a cause or activism.

Part the Fourth

One final admission: for several days I hesitated to say more in public about this situation because I saw more than one blog post or comment chiding the community for “turning on” Kynn. Most, if not all, of these comments came from people outside the community or those hostile to it, anyway. I let those comments get to me when I should have ignored them just like I ignore the other claptrap certain people spew.

The community owes no loyalty to a person who does things that specifically goes against the tenets of that community. And given that both Kynn and Jack have taken the opportunity to tell their sides of the story, individuals in the community have every right to weigh those words against what they know of the individuals and against their own morals. Most of the people I have on my Flist believe Jack. Therefore, it is entirely appropriate for the community to “turn against” someone who we believe raped her partner.

The fact that within our own ranks there hasn’t been a huge split with equal amounts taking sides (as far as I’ve seen) is telling. Things might have been different if Kynn was a person we all inherently trusted and had no doubts about. That’s not the case.

And Now: The Discussion

All right, it’s taken me a really long time to put this together and I need to stop now. I am keeping comments open and public at this time. However, there are ground rules.

If I feel the conversation is going south or if I need to be away from my computer for extended times, I will switch to auto-moderation and screen all comments. First time commenters will have their first comment screened, but after I approve one you should be able to comment with no restrictions. Anonymous comments are allowed, but will be screened.

The thing I want to discuss here is the impact this situation has on communities, on trust metrics and how we, as a group, can tweak those. This is not the place to discuss your theories on rape, what rape is, whether what Kynn did really constitutes rape, or similar topics. If you really want that discussion, have it in your own space.

6 thoughts on “Community, Trust, Responsibility, Consequences

  1. I have lost or failed the second half of this post twice now. I think there’s no blame to be put, no way to say we should have seen this coming, and i say this as someone who was pretty close friends with her, and still didn’t add anything up to suspect this was possible. I’m not judging anyone who is staying friends with her, but I am having thoughts about anyone who is taking her side.
    I may be seen as someone who turned on her right away when the accusations dropped, because I was in a situation where I no longer was hung up on “oh, this person is good and couldn’t have done this” due to personal parallels in my current life, but I don’t judge people as apologists who took longer to make up their minds. I do think that we need to look at why even in this community
    where we talk frequently about how to react when your friends are charged with serious things, so many of us still jumped to think our friend couldn’t have done this.

  2. With a few edits, I could have written part three of your post, other than the fact that I don’t think she was befriending me to use my social capital in an In Group because I ain’t got none.

    On the rest of it,

  3. Thank you for framing some discussion about the impact on communities. I’ve been keeping my mouth shut because I didn’t understand why I was hearing so many demands for reparation from people who weren’t Jack. But you’re right; the community *has* been affected by this.

    I still feel like we risk drowning Jack’s voice out when I hear people demanding that Kynn cancel her internet access/never speak out about social justice again/publicly apologize/whatever. I prefer the discussion framed this way, asking what impact does it have on the community, and how do we move forward? My gut says that this is the conversation we should be having. I’m willing to be convinced that the ‘reparations’ discussion is also one we should be having… but at the moment, I don’t think so.

    I turned a blind eye to Kynn’s abrasiveness because it’s my personal policy to try not to judge other people’s fury. And I stick by that policy; lots of people’s anger makes me uncomfortable. I’d have to know somebody pretty well before I could say, “hey, your aggressiveness on this topic bugs me” without feeling like I was turning the tone argument onto one of our own.

    And that’s one of the things I fear we’re going to lose — the willingness to put up with each other’s anger. Because so many people are pointing at Kynn’s grab-on-and-don’t-let-go aggressiveness as a reason they believe the rape accusation. And, I think, um, really? I believe rape victims because we should believe rape victims, and because so often they’re not believed.

    Neither Kynn’s furious warrior persona nor the sweet teddy-bear persona of the person who assaulted me has anything to do with whether our communities should believe victims of rape. And while it’s true that I personally spent years avoiding people and things that reminded me of my assault, that does not mean that a community should therefore be ever suspicious of teddy-bear-like-people. Communities aren’t people, and I don’t think we can afford that.

  4. On a more personal level, I also often felt that Kynn was very eager to have a closer relationship with me than our acquaintance warranted.

    You’re not the only one. I have a mental health filter on my LJ, where I talk about my medication, my experiences, etc. Several times, when I put up a poll basically saying “hey, I’m making this filter, you can opt in here,” and she asked to be on it. It struck me as a bit odd at the time- we had shared causes, but we weren’t good friends- but I brushed the concerns aside because I’d seen her post about her own mental health, and I thought she’d want to share. Looking back, it makes me really uncomfortable.

  5. I saw a lot of the abrasive, fight seeking behavior from Kynn you describe, and it upset me, but not in a way I’d tie into thinking “This person might commit rape”. I don’t think I can come up with a scenario of “we should have excluded this person before all this” that would make sense.

    I don’t know that any sort of policing pre-action is necessary, but any community has the power to be as safe as possible for people who’ve been raped by members of that community promising (and following through) to listen to and accept the stories of rape victims, and to not say “Oh, so and so could never…” because everyone has that potential.

    I think stepping back and making ourselves into people who’d not rush to anyone’s side just because they’re a friend, and accused of rape, is what we can do. That’s a hard thing to do.

    I have to think, what would ever happen if I were unfairly accused of rape? Would I want to be in a community that, because of sensitivity to rape victims, might not take my side because of being friends? It’s scary, but I think yes. I should work towards a community that does that.

  6. Thanks for posting this.

    I’m one of the people whose response has mainly been useless inarticulate waving of hands, coupled with trying to wrestle my PTSD back into its cage in the wake of reading the chat log Kynn posted. That’s not a very useful response, though.

    I believe Jack. I don’t think Kynn can participate very usefully or safely-for-others in social justice work within the community after this, but I also don’t necessarily mistrust people who are still friends with her. When you’ve been friends with someone for a long time, and you learn something awful about their character, you have a choice–you can turn your back, or you can stay and hope that you can help them to become a better person, at least by modeling how to be a good person, even if you can’t directly engage with them on that front. Or you can pretend that nothing happened. I don’t think that last option is a good one, but either of the first two responses is valid in my book.

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