[Content note: intimate partner violence, rape culture, disbelief of survivors.]
It's really amazing how much people in our society say they support the survivors of intimate partner abuse. Until they have an actual survivor who needs their support.
Over the weekend, reports emerged that Mike Smith, who stars as Bubbles in the television show Trailer Park Boys, had been arrested and charged with domestic battery in Los Angeles. A statement of support for Smith appeared on TrailerParkBoys.com, in which both Smith and Georgia Ling, the woman involved in the complaint, disputed the charge. The statement claimed that "other members of the Trailer Park Boys and staff" all stand with Smith.
Some time after that statement appeared, cast member Lucy DeCoutere Tweeted that she had left the show, after issuing a Tweet that noted: "If I find out someone is abusive, I cut them out of my life. It’s very easy."And then the shitstorm of verbal abuse towards Ms. DeCoutere began.
I'm utterly appalled by the suggestion that DeCoutere or any abuse survivor is obliged to act a certain way when someone close to them is charged with battery. Based on the reporting, it's unclear to me whether DeCoutere resigned over this incident, or had previously resigned and was simply announcing it in relation to the press release, which implied the entire cast supported Smith. (A publicist later clarified that the statement about support from "other members of the Trailer Park Boys" only represented the opinions of Robb Wells and J. P. Tremblay, Smith's co-stars.)
Regardless of the sequence of events, the demands that she should join in publicly supporting Smith, or wait until courts reached a verdict to make a judgement about him, and other directives about how she should react, are utterly appalling.
For anyone who doesn’t remember, DeCoutere was one of the complainants in the Jian Ghomeshi trial, and one who allowed her name to be made public. And when I say "Jian Ghomeshi trial," I might more accurately say "trial of the honesty and character of his accusers," since that’s what it became. Not only was Ghomeshi acquitted, the judge’s remarks were a victim blaming shitfest full of harmful stereotypes about survivors. DeCoutere’s activism was held against her. The friendship of the complainants was labelled "collusion." (The judge’s connection to the defence attorney wan't ever mentioned, of course.) The entire thing is Exhibit A in answering the question “why don’t survivors go to the police?”
I can’t even begin to imagine how it would feel to go through that experience, so very publicly, and then turn around and be once again shoved into the spotlight because of intimate partner violence issues, barely more than a week later. Yet somehow perfect strangers think they have a right to dictate how DeCoutere should process this experience?
And most obscenely, that she should prioritize an accused batterer's needs above her own?
Fuck. That. Shit.
Listen, I get that for fans of the show, the news about Smith is really hard to wrap one's mind around. The character he plays, Bubbles, is gentle, kind and caring. It’s not easy to reconcile that with the charges laid in Los Angeles. But if that's troubling you, then work that out on your own time. Expecting Lucy DeCoutere to make some statement of support for Smith in order that you can feel better about him, which is what many fans seem to be demanding, is fundamentally indecent
I also get that this is complicated by Ms. Ling's statements of support for Smith, denying that she ever felt in any real danger and condemning the police for the arrest. But using Ling's public statements about the incident to tell DeCoutere what to do or say isn't supporting either woman. It's just more bullying. (For the record, I support Ling as well, and I hope she gets whatever resources to get through what has got to be an incredibly difficult period of her life, as well as to deal with any continuing fallout that may occur for her.) Lucy DeCoutere is entitled to her own opinion and judgements, and most of all, to her own feelings.
Those who think that DeCoutere needs to set her feelings aside (or worse yet, not to have feelings about this at all) and say something nice about Mike Smith are behaving ludicrously and dangerously. Prioritizing a man’s reputation over a survivor's health and safety fuels rape culture and enables abuse. Doing so not only hurts Lucy DeCoutere, it hurts every other survivor who sees this shit. It only serves to reinforce the wretched notion that we survivors aren’t allow to take control of our own lives.
And I utterly reject that.
If you're only my ally in theory, you're not my ally at all.
Ms. DeCoutere, I take up space in solidarity with you, and support you as you move forward with your own health and healing. Rock on, lady, in whatever way seems best.
[Commenting note: I recognize that Trailer Park Boys is a show that can be very problematic from a social justice perspective. While that’s a worthy topic of discussion, it’s really not relevant to supporting Lucy DeCoutere as a survivor, so I ask that it not be the topic of this thread. Keeping support for survivors centered is in and of itself a feminist act.]