#MeToo is less effective than I might hope. I had a conversation with a man who wanted to protect innocent men from manipulative, emotional females who make false allegations. I had to explain about similar fact evidence, the Moorov Doctrine, and precisely why I believed Leigh Corfman’s allegations. Roy Moore, a candidate for the Senate, took her to his house out in the country when she was 14, stripped off and got her to put her hand on his penis through his underpants. How could she get away, if he wanted to stop her? How could she get home, without his help? He was 32. I suppose I should use the word “allegedly”- he denies it, no-one else was there- but other women have made similar allegations. He liked young teenage girls, and did not marry until he was 38. This is the man who compares gay sex to bestiality.
Scenario. A woman comes to your church occasionally, who is looking after her uncle. He suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. She has been observed shouting in his face, and once to push him so that he banged his head on a seat. What do you do? We discuss this, and are full of sympathy for her. Looking after someone with Alzheimers is a terrible job. We can so understand someone being under pressure greater than they can bear. And yet- she has committed a criminal assault on him. At best, she is allowing her anger to control her, and reacting to him in a way which could seriously hurt him. She should notice that her better nature is not in control, and seek help. At worst, she is engaged in a campaign of sadistic bullying, and perhaps is caring for him in the hope of inheriting his money.
It is possible that she is a monster, and clear that she is not taking steps to deal with a dangerous situation. Yet we try to make excuses for her. The poor woman, it is too much for her, it would be too much for anyone. We don’t want to believe that she could be that bad.
We need normality and a sense of safety to function in the world. At any moment our lives could end, or be changed irrevocably- from Betelgeuse going supernova to the car accident rendering you paraplegic, there are myriad theats you cannot counter. And yet normally you are OK. So monsters move among us, rendered invisible by Douglas Adams’ “Somebody Else’s Problem field”- The brain just edits it out, like a blind spot. You won’t see it unless you know precisely what it is. People have a natural predisposition not to see anything they don’t want to, weren’t expecting, or can’t explain. Adams imagined invisible spaceships, too weird to notice, but this applies to sex offenders and abusers too. Roy Moore is a Christian, and if Christians did things like that churches would not be safe. We so need churches to be a safe space that we can’t see the signs of abuse.
Saira Ahmed shows how a person who complains is a threat to the group and their (illusory) sense of safety in the group. The answer is to exclude her. It is easier to exclude the complainant than to face the problem about which she complains, and face the truth that we have not been safe, that abusers walk among us, may even have charmed us into thinking them our friends. First they charm us, reassuring us, because charm must indicate they are good, then they behave badly and are seen as good because badness is inconceivable, incredible, it cannot be admitted.
The need to feel safe can prevent us from being safe, because it blinds us to threats.