At times, activists are viewed as having the moral high ground. The portrayal of activism shows hardworking people using their strength and determination to fight against the world's injustices. But what happens when it's an activist or activists contributing to a problem?
Recently, an activist from an organization I've worked with was accused by his girlfriend of sexual assault. After the girlfriend shared her story on Twitter, activists across the organization worked to remove this individual and de-platform him, which refers to unfollowing and disassociating from a person.
Messages of support and strength were sent to the girlfriend, with each chapter of the organization publishing a letter condemning sexual assault.
But was a letter the solution we needed? Or just a Band-Aid fix?
Conversations about sexual assault should be prevalent in activism, regardless of which organizations you stand with. Both men and women can face this terrible experience and we must show solidarity and support at all times.
Creating a safe space to talk about this topic can be a great first start. For example, openly explaining to members of your organization that this space is safe and accepting. Some individuals might not bring up the topic for fear of it being out of place. Also, sharing resources for sexual assault survivors can show solidarity while offering important information.
While sharing stories and creating safe spaces are vitally important, we must also acknowledge the deeper rooted problem: the moral high ground of activism.
Many people outside of activism look at activists as vital components to changing the problems of America. Although our work centers in making change, we chose this path not because we wanted to, but because we needed to. My motivation to fight gun violence came from a drive to prevent friends and family from having to witness gun violence and its effects.
Rather than putting activists on a pedestal, seek to understand their motivations behind it and how this work affects them. Activism can most definitely be a rewarding experience, but status and recognition should not a driving motivator.
When the pedestal around the assailant's feet crumbled, the organization realized how some activists were contributing to the world's injustices — and why that needed to stop.
If you or someone you know has been abused or needs help leaving an abusive situation, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673).