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