I saw this tweet yesterday shared by a few folks, and I was curious to find out what was going on:
Yesterday, I found out that someone I followed and supported on social media has been using their platforms in an incredibly inappropriate way.
They have posed as a mental health advocate to connect with vulnerable women and then pestered them sexually.
— Gordo (@bluesbroken) June 4, 2020
It seems that a somewhat popular mental health advocate, was using his position to sexually harass women online, and maybe offline as well, I’m not sure. It isn’t someone I was overly familiar with, but I also can’t rule out that I hadn’t retweeted or liked something he had tweeted that made it’s way to my timeline. Nonetheless, this news is very upsetting on a number of levels.
First, and foremost, because women talking about mental health online should not be harassed by the same people who say they are advocating or trying to support them. Nope, drop the charade, you are only posing as a caring advocate in the hope that you’ll get some sex out of it. That’s incredibly harmful to these women!
Secondly, is the knock-on affect this has. I’ve said many times that rape and sexual abuse survivors should be the first, and loudest, voices to denounce someone caught making a false allegation. Because every single false allegation creates one more example for people to point to and say that we all shouldn’t be believed. We are all hurt when someone is caught making a false allegation. Men, when a male advocate is using his platform to sexually harass women, we should be the first, and loudest, voices here too. Because it’s wrong, and also because now, there’s one more example out there for people to doubt our sincerity when it comes to caring about people with mental health issues.
Personally, I think this goes double for male abuse survivors. For many survivors, like me, who were abused by a male perpetrator, especially sexual abuse survivors, maintaining relationships with other men can be a struggle. We often rely on the connections we make with female survivors and advocates in the mental health and abuse survivor communities for our own support, and sense of community. The last thing we need is for those same women to have a reason to be wary of even allowing us into those communities, and yet, here is a reason for them to do exactly that.
So, by harassing women and assuming that they wouldn’t speak out due to his status and popularity, he has now done harm directly to those women, and indirectly to everyone who is trying to exist in a supportive, mixed gender, community. He’s given all women yet another excuse to exclude men from the advocacy arena, at a time when we are working so hard to get more men to talk about their mental health. Like there weren’t enough reasons for women to be wary to start with.
This makes me so angry. I hope that those of us who do advocate and interact online and offline with survivors and people dealing with mental health issues can move beyond this and continue to build strong, supportive, communities, and I am thankful for the places where I know I am welcome.
I also hope we can learn to treat each other with the respect and dignity that our shared humanity calls for.
Photo by born1945