A brief thought on Scott Stringer, Andrew Cuomo, and others

This article has mentions of sexual assault and abuse in it. Please refrain from reading and/or take care of yourself upon reading if this will be too upsetting for you. 

Today, the story of Jean Kim’s sexual and psychological abuse by NYC mayoral candidate Scott Stringer broke. Hopefully this will be the downfall of this particular White Male Progressive (TM) abuser, and Jean Kim’s story is specific and harrowing. You can read about it here. I wish the same would happen to Andrew Cuomo, for he also has credible allegations of psychological and sexual abuse out against him, but he’s not running for anything and is much too cruel and shrewd to admit anything or resign.

The first thing I want to say is that I believe Jean Kim, and that’s for several reasons. One of those reasons is not that I am a proponent of Dianne Morales. I am a strong proponent of Dianne Morales, but abuse transcends any policy favoritism. If it came out that Morales sexually assaulted a former intern, I would immediately rescind my support.

When you learn that someone is an abuser, and are given reasonably believable evidence (in this case, detailed testimony from Kim herself, among other things), that should be the end of it. Abusers do not belong in public office, they don’t belong in your good favor, and they don’t belong in your life. Cuomo should resign, but he won’t. The most pathological of abusers will not admit defeat, and will always battle their accusers and public opinion, despite the ethical thing to do being to be making amends and retreating from roles that only serve to enable further abuse.

Standing up to abusers in your life is both for your benefit and for the benefit of the abused. When folks are defending Stringer, and Cuomo for that matter, it is a direct and deep emotional blow to the most vulnerable; the abused, who already have to deal with deep physical and psychological trauma to do with their abuse, as well as feelings of guild and shame, anger, fear, and much more. It’s also inevitably going to be harmful to you to keep around an abuser, for just because abusers (sexual, physical, psychological) are kind to you, that doesn’t mean that they will be nice forever.

Indeed, Kim detailed fear of her career being ruined had she spoken out sooner. She was scared of Stringer’s history of losing his temper, and the effect that would have on her career. Abusers don’t care what they have to do to to keep perception from shifting about them, to keep them from losing power. Whatever needs to be done, at whatever moral cost, will be done.

Jean Kim, and Cuomo’s accusers, exhibited enormous bravery by naming their abusers publicly and subjecting themselves to scrutiny, retribution, and retaliation of all sorts. I wish I could be as brave, but for now, I will do my best to work on my own mental health when stories like this crop up. What little platform I have will also be used to affirm the realities of survivors of abuse of all kinds. This is a safe space for victims of abuse, it always will be. I hear you and see you, I believe you. You didn’t deserve what happened to you and you don’t deserve retribution for speaking out.

There’s an additional facade in place when progressive, supposedly empathetic men are accused. Said Stringer when faced with the allegations, “I believe women have the right and should be encouraged to come forward. They must be heard. But this isn’t me. I didn’t do this.” This is what any man who supposedly is an ally to women, who is accused of misconduct, will say; believe women, just not the one who accused me. Men with progressive, empathetic histories are especially protected from criticism, due to the farcical perception that they “aren’t like that,” or “not my ___, he would never do that.” Yes, he would, and yes, he has. Women rarely lie about these kinds of things, and the men who are accused are incentivized to.

Finally, it’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month. As I posted on my Instagram, it’s a time when many folks crawl out of the woodworks to assert themselves as allies to survivors. Real allies will hold their colleagues, friends, and family accountable for inappropriate, harmful, and traumatizing behavior. Many spaces I am in and people I know do this; it’s a protective shield, to call oneself an ally without actually putting in the work to make a difference in your environment. Please be a real ally.

I believe Jean Kim, and you should believe me.

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