Addendum to “The Nitty Gritty”

Mischa Byruck
3 min readJul 13, 2022

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In early 2020 I published an article in the New Modality’s inaugural issue about the ways that alternative communities are handling sexual violations. I used as an example sex educator Reid Mihalko’s public accountability process, which he underwent after being publicly accused of assault.

While I had no ties to Mihalko when I wrote the piece in 2019, I am currently working as a consultant for Bonobo Network, a Bay Area sex-positive organization that has partnered with Mihalko on multiple projects, and I’ve spent time with him at social events.

In March of 2022, I received an email from one of the people Mihalko harmed, who I’ll call Ashley (She requested anonymity but I verified her identity and connection to Mihalko). My conversation with her helped me see that my piece was inadequately reported and harmful.

There are multiple people who were harmed by Mihalko who are dissatisfied with his process, did not receive healing from it, and objected (and continue to object to) his return to sex education. For her part, Ashley complained about what she termed Mihalko’s “bullshit apology,” and called his entire process a “sham.” (Here is the Survivor Pod’s public Medium account)

Ashley’s perspective is critical, and I should have featured voices like hers directly, especially since I included Mihalko’s voice, yet I failed to include it. I also should have made the controversial nature of his process far more clear, and I didn’t do that either.

Ashley’s feedback also illuminated two important points that were not adequately presented in the original. The first is that the community-based nature of community accountability processes often renders them deeply suspect, since we tend not to trust our peers to hold us accountable. The second is that these processes often leave harmed parties feeling worse off than when they started.

It was harmful for me to publish without this perspective, as the lack of balance effectively erased the voices of harmed people. It also, as Ashley pointed out, helped paint Miahlko as a “poster child” for accountability processes, by offering a lopsided and inaccurately rosy picture of his process’s success. By doing this, I re-triggered at least one person, and likely did the same to others.

I sincerely apologize for erasing the voices of assault survivors, and for reinforcing the easy narrative of a clean reformation when the truth is far messier.

Moving forward, I’m strengthening my commitment to center survivors’ perspectives in my writing and in my work. I’m not planning to do any more public journalism on this topic, but if I do I’ll balance out the voices of harmed people as well as people who did harm. Further, as part of my coaching practice for men who have harmed, I now ask my clients to connect me with at least one person they’ve harmed for me to interview.

The New Modality is on hiatus, but my editor offered to link to this post at the end.

Thank you for reading.

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Mischa Byruck

Men’s Accountability coach at Evolve.Men. Writer and speaker on gender and power. Previously @codeforamerica and @DataKind.