Being Labeled A ‘Bad Survivor’ Showed Me That Callout Culture Needs To Change

The Establishment
The Establishment
Published in
10 min readAug 29, 2017

By Erika Haberman

Credit: Flickr/Gene Han

Callouts are often misused to attack marginalized people — most often trans women.

LLast summer I was sexually assaulted by one of my closest friends. I was dealing with a lot of trauma at the time, and they volunteered to come take care of me. But they showed up drunk, and in my fragile emotional state I was unable to stand up for myself. They did things to me without ever asking consent, using me for their own pleasure and ignoring my needs. For a host of reasons related to trauma and our victim-blaming culture, I wasn’t immediately aware that my boundaries had been crossed, so I didn’t think much of it afterwards and I continued being their close friend. It wasn’t until months later after I started talking to other people who had had similar experiences with them that I came to understand what had happened to me as assault.

As I began to come forward with what had happened — with the hopes of raising awareness about my assailant’s violence as a means of protecting others — I quickly found myself exiled from my community. Despite my efforts to protect others, according to some people in the social justice and activist spaces I was a part of, I’d not gone far enough; for not wanting to ruin my assailant’s life by exacting violence against them or running them out of town, I was quickly labeled a “bad survivor.”

What happened to me painfully illustrates the harm that can be caused under the guise of “callout culture.”

The vast majority of the radical and queer communities — myself included — do not believe in the prison system. We understand that the criminal “justice” system is really just a racist profit machine that has no intention of rehabilitating offenders. Further, my assailant is transgender. As a transgender woman who’s already experienced firsthand the kind of violence that trans people face in jail, I was unwilling to involve the police in the wake of my assault.

As a result, I sought to enter into a transformative justice process with my assailant. I understood that they were raised in an extremely conservative Christian homeschooling setting and had never received any kind of…

The Establishment
The Establishment

The conversation is much more interesting when everyone has a voice. Media funded & run by women; new content daily.