#MeTooAnthony: Kevin Spacey’s Statement Is a Clever PR Salvage
The actor has, with a single tweet, undone years of work by associating homosexuality with child sexual abuse.
Anthony Rapp recently revealed in an interview that he was sexually abused by Kevin Spacey. Anthony was in his early teens then, still a child, and Kevin was an adult of 26. Spacey has responded to Rapp publicly and anything put on the public domain is open for interpretation.
As a survivor of child rape, myself, it saddens me to see the focus shift from ensuring protection and support for people who have just opened up about their abuse to the abuser. One looks for a “good wins over evil” and “let’s destroy the evil” kind of stories in cases like these. We tend to put too much pressure on fragile shoulders that are already burdened by the weight of their very public acceptance of a memory many would rather not constantly remind themselves of or accept that it ever happened.
The focus should be on the Anthonys in our midst. We need to ensure that they find all the support that they need to deal with this revelation. It is important that we give them the space to speak out against the Spaceys of the world.
In this Buzzfeed article, Anthony Rapp has opened up about the abuse. He also speaks about Spacey’s gaze when he accidentally met Spacey when he was leaving the restroom. Child sexual abuse can have a chilling effect. Rapp spoke to a few of his boyfriends and friends about Spacey. However, it took the #MeToo campaign for his stomach to churn and understand that it now was his turn to tell his story.
I find this relatable. I was raped at seven. I didn't speak till I was 18. And when I spoke, I didn't remember everything as it happened. Over time, like parts of the jigsaw puzzle, the images came together to unravel the picture. Like, till I spoke at Satyamev Jayate, I didn't remember that there was more than one man abusing me. It was the stories during the shoot of Satyamev Jayate that triggered me enough to open up and become aware of the violations of my body.
For Rapp and for me and for every survivor of child sexual abuse, this will be a life long occurrence. We will keep remembering parts of our abuse, we will initially look at it with self-doubt and hallucination, and then finally ascertain that it really happened.
Repressed memory is for survivors of sexual assault, I believe, not so much for people who abuse, unless they abuse so often that they don't remember incidents. May be I am generalising, but I do remember people who are uncomfortable with my presence in any event easily. How did Spacey, an actor by profession, who is trained to understand the pulse of people around, miss it?
And Spacey’s letter... "I don’t remember... but if I did behave the way he says I did , then sorry" is no apology.
It is at best, a display of unabashed and shameful brazenness or better still - a clever PR salvage by a special crisis management team responsible for managing his “image”. Let’s not be fooled. He has “not apologised”. He has not admitted. I read the letter as “I have no memory of sexually assaulting you. But if I have sexually assaulted you, like you say I have, then sorry”.
Kevin Spacey came out in the same letter as a gay person. Somehow relating his ifs and buts of being an abuser to him being gay. For years and years together, gay and bisexual men have worked hard to tell people that they are not abusers. Kevin, with a single tweet, arms all those who champion homophobia this absolute disservice to the struggle of LGBT activists who worked hard to disassociate homosexuality with child sexual abuse/ paedophilia.
Spacey’s tweet is too cleverly worded for him to commit any mistake. But why did Spacey do so? Does he intend to say that because he was gay and so is Rapp, it could have been consensual? But then Rapp was a child and he an adult. Where did this incident happen? What is the age of consent in the state that the incident happened? Is it 14? What is “what would have been inappropriate drunken behaviour”? Does it mean he has a pattern of such drunken behaviour and it could have been Rapp or someone else, which is more scary, isn’t it?
And why didn’t Spacey come out as gay earlier? Anthony Rapp opened about his experience of child sexual abuse because of the #MeToo campaign. What was Spacey’s trigger for coming out as gay?
Though Rapp didn't speak about his abuse, survivors have the ability to use the negative energy that comes from anger and disgust to something as positive as art, perseverance, empathy and courage. Rapp came out when it was a taboo to come out. The Metro Weekly described Anthony Rapp: “For much of that time, he was nearly alone as an openly gay leading man, on Broadway or anywhere”.
In the same interview, he says that he prefers queer rather than gay. Rapp is clear, deeply intuitive - empathetic and understanding of himself and the world around him. Yes, it took him years to hold his past by the fist and share it unabashedly with the world. But he did. And he did it right.
We need to acknowledge the presence of Spaceys in our safe spaces. We also need to acknowledge that it takes more than just courage to acknowledge a past fractured by child sexual abuse in a world full of judgments that victimise the victim and wishes to prove that all of abuse was consensual because of the sexuality of the abuser and victim. As a fellow survivor, I feel deeply overwhelmed by the revelation by Anthony Rapp. I should confess that I have been numbed after reading his ordeal and every ordeal. It touches a raw nerve of empathy.
After all, we survivors don’t have the world to support us in our journeys.
I have spoken to over 1 lakh adult survivors of child sexual abuse, and can say that – we survivors don't always have the world to support us - we just have us. And we together are massive force to fight every prejudice and to empower each other.
I wouldn’t champion you, Anthony. I would just listen and say that the power of your story shall ignite several other men to speak up.
(Harish Iyer is an equal rights activist working for the rights of the LGBT community, women, children and animals.)
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