Recently I attended a Take Back the Night event and march. During the Survivor Speakout, the opportunity for victims and survivors to tel their stories, a perpetrator got on stage and spoke. He began by saying that he wasn’t sure that ‘this was the right place’ for telling his story but that he knew what he did ‘was wrong’ that he ‘pushed too far.’
After his speech, everyone clapped. But the question is, ‘What place do perpetrators have in the movement against sexual and intimate partner violence?’
My view, is ‘some.’ What this guy did was the right thing. He got up in public and he named what he was, what he did, and why it was wrong. He didn’t make excuses. He apologized.
However, is WAS the wrong place. Take Back the Night’s are for survivors. At the very least, he could have spoken with the organization putting the event on beforehand and told that that he was considering speaking. That way special consideration may have been made, or he could have been told that he wasn’t allowed to speak so as not to ruin the experience for survivors.
It is important to recognize that perpetrators do have a story as well. They have a place in our movement. To get to that point, however, serious thought and serious listening and education needs to be accomplished. There are some perpetrators who simply do not have a place in this movement. Serial rapists do not have a place in this movement.
Perpetrators who wish to work in this movement need to be forthcoming and need to be understanding that they may not be welcomed. When this occurs, not ‘if’, they need to be ok with that. They need to not get defensive and reactive. They need to take it maturely. Perpetrators who wish to get involved in ‘the movement’ need to understand that they will never outgrow what they did, and can never apologize enough. Their place is tenuous, it will always be that way. They can be involved as examples of what not to do, how behaviors early on lead to their perpetration.
The right place isn’t at Take Back the Night. The right place is…I don’t know, somewhere safe for victims and survivors.