Vir Cotto's BDSM Blog

Are we ready to embrace people who've done bad things?

I see two positive sea changes in our community.

The first is that we're seeing people come out, finally, and name abuse. This is a vital first step and I'm thrilled that we have it in place. Without mentioning anyone specifically, it's clear that abuse has been going on under our collective noses for years. We're now talking about it, identifying it, and talking about ways to keep it from happening.

We're also changing the culture in another great way, which is to shift away from talking about punishment to restorative justice. We're seeing the culture move away from the idea that consent violator is a brand placed on someone and that in many cases, a person can be helped and then brought back in.

I've seen and been part of discussions on appropriate responses to re-educate accused consent violators, as well as people who have done other problematic things. Usually, these restorative justice programs dictate that the person gets educated in consent, possibly that they seek professional counseling, that they are unable to play for a period of time, or that they are chaperoned during an event.

What I haven't seen is how those of us who believe in restorative justice are going to shift the culture at large to be welcoming and supportive of a person who has not only been accused but done the hard work of going through a transformative justice program. How will we, communally, celebrate people who have done this hard work and support them.

Until we can offer these people a warm, welcoming return, it should surprise no one that few if any people would do the hard work of going through one of these programs. No one wants to be singled out as a bad person, labeled and branded, only then to be ostracized.

Even the most well-meaning restorative justice leaders I've spoken to talk will occasionally talk about these people as if they're dangerous rabid dogs, talking about "mitigating their impact" and "preventing harm", but these programs won't work if they traumatize people going through them.

So let's start exploring ways that we can move the restorative justice idea forward in a way that embraces those who have the bravery to go through it.

EDIT: I put this in the comments but I am getting enough feedback that I think it's important to put in the post itself.

First, this isn't about taking action without listening. Listening is vital. It's key.

We've lately been hearing about some incredibly awful behavior. I myself have felt physically ill reading these posts about what's happened. It's caused me to literally need long extended periods of self-care. And this is from a person who volunteers on a crisis hotline and deals with regularly talks to people who are suicidal, homeless or at risk of homelessness, or at risk of being murdered from their family (spouse, parents, etc.). And what I've read here upsets me more.


And part of listening is realizing that there are cut and dry cases, but there are also complex situations where someone may be both a victim and an abuser.

This isn't all about helping abusers either. With a scene that simply ejected anyone who is accused of bad behavior, we make it less likely for someone to either come forward or get help.

I realize that I often talk in shorthand, and for that I apologize.