From Cain to Paterno: it’s not just a nuisance

Herman Cain has some tsouris.  At least, that’s what he wants us to think.  He’s been horribly inconvenienced by all of these allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior.  Bullies, rapists, abusers, and their like are often narcissists.  It’s not about the harm to the victim, it’s about the harm to them; the harm caused by getting caught.   People who consistently behave the way Herman Cain has been accused of are dangerous, the more so for their inability to recognize their own bad behavior.

The allegations against Cain were settled in the time-honored way; the victim was payed off to remain silent, the perpetrator left in his position of power.   Some might say, “what’s the harm? Nothing really happened, and they got money!”

But silence itself is violence.

The victims of Cain’s alleged behavior are not unscathed; money doesn’t salve all wounds.  You can bet the women forced into silence took the deal not for the money but because it’s the best they could do to protect themselves from a powerful, abusive man.  As we’ve seen in the Catholic Church child-rape scandal, silence encourages abusive behavior: it’s a tacit approval.

You might wonder how an upstanding citizen like Joe Paterno could get twisted up in a child rape scandal.  He’s not accused of being the abuser, but Jerry Sandusky, the alleged rapist, was one of his closest advisers, and even after others knew of his behavior, he continued to troll for victims through his charitable organization (allegedly).

This is how silence kills.  When we keep quiet for the sake of the perpetrator instead of shouting in defense of the victim, we are participants in societal violence, violence that often twists people’s lives into unrecognizable horrors.

We shouldn’t weep for Paterno; he failed, and his failure was devastating. We shouldn’t weep for Cain, even if it turns out he is falsely accused.  Rather than shout implausible denials and hurl invectives at women brave enough to speak out, he should take a stand against the sort of violence that he is accused of.  By denying their experiences and attacking them, he is denying the experiences of all victims and survivors of abuse.  He is proclaiming silence a virtue rather than a vice that perpetuates victimization.

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1 Comment

  1. PalMD…so has Cain been found guilty then? I’m not following that part of the story. I assumed from your post he was guilty, but at the end you imply he may actually be innocent….in which case, your post doesn’t make a lot of sense (at least to this socially-impaired literalist reader).

    For example,

    We shouldn’t weep for Cain, even if it turns out he is falsely accused.

    So violence is wrong and should be stood up against, but violence done to character is okay because he didn’t react the way people thought he should react?

    Rather than shout implausible denials and hurl invectives at women brave enough to speak out,

    If he’s innocent, the women aren’t being brave, they’re liars.

    he should take a stand against the sort of violence that he is accused of.

    If he’s innocent and falsely accused his first stand would be against the lies and liars, wouldn’t it? If I was accused of beating babies, I don’t think it would occur to me to speak out against beating babies. It would just be a given that it was wrong and horrific. I’d be more concerned about taking the accusers to court to show everyone they were liars. Granted I should speak out about how bad it is to abuse babies just in case anyone thinks I condone such behaviour, but it probably wouldn’t have occurred to me to do so till someone mentioned it to me.

    By denying their experiences and attacking them, he is denying the experiences of all victims and survivors of abuse.

    No. If he’s innocent, he is denying their lies and rightfully attacking the liars. They are not victims. Confronting and standing up to liars (and bullies) is not denying the experience of real victims and survivors of abuse. Real victims of abuse get pretty angry at those who run around making false claims of being abused.

    If Cain is innocent, then by denouncing them he’s standing up to them.

    If he’s guilty, then the man is an abhorrent piece of work and is completely unfit to be in any position of power even if it is just over one ‘weaker’ person. (actually even if innocent, his antiscience backward and economic views make him unfit for power, esp political power, IMO).

    But how do you recognize the difference between innocent and guilt? How do you decide who is telling the truth and who is lying? How much more horrible is it for a victim of abuse to not be believed? And if there are a dozen victims, how do you decide which of them are telling the truth and which ones see an opportunity to get some money?

    Innocent until proven guilty is a noble idea, but at times it seems to aid those who commit violence, and hurts those who are the victims. I’m not up on U.S. legal laws, but from casual observation from across the border it seems there is a loophole that allow you to consider a person guilty till proven innocent. Is this one of those times? If so, I’m fully in agreement with your post.

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