"Joining a whisper network comes with a catch..."
February 21, 2018 8:46 AM   Subscribe

"...it invites participants in on the condition of silence. And because of that, we often miss that whisper networks are a double-edged sword: the same secrecy that protects victims and whistleblowers can shield perpetrators as well." The Verge longform: When Whisper Networks Let Us Down by Sarah Jeong (cw: sexual assault)
posted by Jacqueline (9 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
IMO, it's time we rethink the tradeoffs between the right to face one's accuser and protecting victims from being revictimized by the legal system and having their own reputations trashed.

The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right for someone "to be confronted with the witnesses against him" but does that necessarily mean that their identities must be made public too?

We have the technological capability to obscure the faces and voices of witnesses who have reason to fear retaliation in other types of cases. Could we make that the default for sexual assault/harassment cases?
posted by Jacqueline at 8:59 AM on February 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

volcanic eruptions tend to come once pressure in a system has built to such an extent that venting really toxic fumes, lava and ash is inevitable.

you can rarely predict how high they will blow, how many eruptions there will be, people, livestock often die as innocent victims of nature's rage.....

I am reminded of a Prof when speaking of the dying years of the Franco regime in Spain saying most dictators have death spasms and the end is often bloodier than the interim phase and often comparable to the advent of said dictator.

and then I think of the incredibly rich and fertile soil that results from volcanos which explains why people still farm their slopes just years after catastrophic eruptions.

that's what I keep in my mind's eye, I've accepted that the wave of anger, not just from women in toxic workplace settings but teens acculturated to gun drills, will have to be vented and some innocents will be hurt as a result, but I have a fervent believe that this pressure needed to vent and the outcome will be more fertile for everyone farming the slopes.
posted by Wilder at 9:30 AM on February 21, 2018 [5 favorites]

Witness anonymity is available in New Zealand, and has been since before the attacker began his series of violent sexual assaults (which started in New Zealand, before he spread his network wider).

I feel that a lot of what the article's talking about is how to make whisper networks more robust, so that they protect better, without forcing people who've been sexually assaulted to necessarily have to report their assaults as crimes.
posted by ambrosen at 9:33 AM on February 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

how to make whisper networks more robust

And more inclusive. One thing that struck me in the article was the women of color who said no one had told them anything while the white women had apparently told each other.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:05 AM on February 21, 2018 [14 favorites]

And more inclusive. One thing that struck me in the article was the women of color who said no one had told them anything while the white women had apparently told each other.

This speaks to larger issues within our society about the lack of socialization between white people and, well, anyone else. Which leads to a lack of protective social bonds within majority-white environments, which is part of the reason WOC are so vulnerable to sexual predators.
posted by schroedinger at 8:21 PM on February 21, 2018 [5 favorites]

I don't think you can or should expect a "whisper network" to keep you safe. Come on. By the nature of the thing, not everyone is going to hear every rumor about every shitty guy. Think of six degrees of separation or what folks you know of are shitty vs. who you never knew were shitty until someone told you because they seemed okay. And the fact that people have to "whisper" for their own safety is another issue because of what sometimes happens to known accusers.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:21 PM on February 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

Another issue with whisper networks is they hide the scope of the problem.

I’ve had a few depressing conversations with well-meaning men, who aren’t included in some whisper networks because they aren’t at risk (and who knows which of them will stay well-meaning if one of their friends or mentors was accused). Then these supposed well-meaning men go around saying “oh that would never happen in our field”.
posted by nat at 3:46 AM on February 22, 2018 [5 favorites]

I don't think anyone would argue that whisper networks are the ideal. They're making the best of a bad situation: attempting to be a woman in a patriarchy where men are implicitly and explicitly encouraged to view women as inferior alien sex objects and women are supposed to just take it.

The current round of #MeToo has opened up the conversation about exactly how prevalent the abuse of this power is. The next step is the discussion of toxic masculinity and the role men have to play in censuring some behaviors and reinforcing others. That is a harder issue and unfortunately one that I haven't yet seen making it to the MSM on a widespread basis.
posted by schroedinger at 4:55 AM on February 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

Let me put it like this: Weinstein (allegedly) assaulted over 80 women over multiple decades. (Obviously there is no count of other victims who have not yet come forward so the number could be a lot higher.)

I guess you could say that without whisper networks the number could have been 800 instead of 80, or maybe five decades instead of three. But still, it seems like this solution doesn't work very well.

What we need is a shouting network. (And I'm not putting the onus on victims/survivors; everyone should shout about this. I'm looking at you, Jon Stewart.)
posted by splitpeasoup at 2:43 PM on February 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

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