A Mea Culpa Of My Own To Valerie D'Orazio....And Everybody
You may have read the recent revelations of how Chris Sims harassed and cyberbullied Valerie D'Orazio online during the period of 2007-2010. Notice I'm not saying "allegedly" because both D'Orazio and Sims agree it happened. He's apologized for it, and there's been some discussions, particularly on Twitter, about the sincerity of his apology and whether it can truly be accepted in light of the consequences, like PTSD, that D'Orazio continues to live with to this day. But I'm not going to go into that here.
Instead, I'm going to issue an apology of my own. To Valerie D'Orazio. And to everybody who's ever felt the sting of online harassment.
It's not for the online harassment D'Orazio received. I wasn't part of that, nor was I really aware of it. Despite reading both of their blogs, somehow I wasn't really aware of the extent of the ongoing feud between Chris and Val, other than seeing his scathing 2010 review of her Girl Comics 4-page Punisher story. I was very busy with my real life at the time, working a ton of overtime at a stressful job while also dealing with an engagement, then a wedding, and then my first year of marriage.
Also, I wrote this post before I had joined any social networks. It would still be 1 1/2 years before I'd join Facebook, 2 1/2 years before I'd join Twitter. Meaning it would be a while before I'd learn the true scope of the abuse routinely directed at women online. Before learning that scope routinely included even rape and death threats. (Which, to be fair, I'm sensing weren't part of Sims' repertoire here, but I can't say for certain.) Part of this was the privilege of not receiving these threats that came with being a male. The rest was plain old ignorance.
And it was this ignorance that led me to say something I deeply regret.
There was a period of time where D'Orazio had written things on her "Occasional Superheroine" blog that had drawn the ire of other comic bloggers. The one that brought things to a head, around January 2009, was where Val told one commenter that you couldn't call yourself a "feminist" if you bought or supported DC Comics. That spurred bloggers like Sally Pascale and Kalinara to call her out on her words.
It also spurred me to vent my spleen about it here. And therein lies the problem.
I tried to be fair and reasonable in my opinions on D'Orazio despite my irritation with her. And for the most part, I think I succeeded. Naturally, as I had written this years before the advent of the Nu52, there were things about DC where she was proven right about and I was proven wrong. No harm there. And there were other things in my post, like my calling out of her "it's OK if it's Marvel" attitude (to paraphrase Dorian Wright) I stand by to this day.
But then there's one paragraph I wrote that makes me absolutely cringe.
Here's the lead-in to it:
Now here's what I wrote next. I think the problem will be very clear.
Hint: It's the last five words.
Expressing doubt, even a hint of doubt, about someone's online abuse claims, especially a woman's, discourages others from coming forward and can perpetuate their suffering and even increase the abuser's victim count. After all, if no one will come forward, the next potential victim won't have a heads-up, will they? And if one abuser gets away with it, it emboldens more abusers to think they can too. And it discourages their victims from coming forward.
It's a vicious cycle. And I'm sorry for my contribution to it here. It doesn't matter if it was a rare lapse. It doesn't matter how ignorant or naive I was. It doesn't matter that I felt the person was unreasonable used polarizing rhetoric. It doesn't even matter that she probably doesn't know me from John Doe. It was wrong.
I've tried to be good about not blaming or doubting the victims over the course of my life. And for the most part, I've succeeded. But in this instance I failed. I failed Ms. D'Orazio and failed myself. Miserably.
I'm sorry. And it won't happen again.