Junot Diaz Accused of Sexual Assault

[Content Note: Sexual assault/harassment.]

Last month, writer Junot Diaz wrote a widely-shared piece for the New Yorker about having survived childhood sexual violence. I linked the piece here, without comment, because I thought it was an important piece, but I also struggled with what I thought was suggestion, without acknowledgment, that Diaz had been sexually abusive himself in his adulthood.

And, unfortunately, my suspicions were correct.

Many people will be quick to make the point that survivors of childhood abuse sometimes abuse others, because they have been entrained to regard abuse as normal. This is a true thing. But.

Most survivors of sexual violence don't violate other people. And those who do are still responsible for their own harmful actions, even if their abusers are simultaneously responsible for the reverberating harm they caused.

And Diaz did not own his assault(s) in his piece. That is a critical point. To the contrary, there is now the appearance that he confessed his own abuse as a preemptive deflection of accusations against him he may have rightly suspected were imminent.

Indeed, when Bina Shah asked, "Do you think he was trying to pre-empt this from coming out with the essay he wrote in the New Yorker about being raped as a child? Like Kevin Spacey's 'I'm gay' diversion?", Zinzi Clemmons replied frankly: "Yes. And so do many of my colleagues."

That preemption also, of course, created a context in which his victims now have to face all the regular blowback faced by any person publicly alleging abuse against a prominent figure, and additionally will have to weather the criticism of levying allegations against someone who is himself a victim.

Which brings me to this: I take up space in solidarity with Clemmons, and the others, those who will tell their stories and those who won't, who were victimized by Diaz. I am so desperately sorry he was abused; I am so angry he abused others.

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