Just recently David Silverman was named executive director of Atheist Alliance International and all of a sudden my social media was flooded with rehashing of the prior allegations of sexual assault. I admit I was never a huge subscriber to “Firebrand Atheism” and didn’t know a whole lot about Dave as a person, but I did have a general understanding as to what had gone down. After watching several interviews and reading articles from people on both sides I decided that I wanted more details, so I reached out to several of the parties involved. Dave responded and we set up a time to have a chat. Everything went well, it lasted just under two hours and by the end I felt like I had new found insight to what this experience had done to him.
A few days later I sat down to review the recording of my Skype call with Dave, a minute in I had to shut it off. I was overcome with emotion by the trembling I heard in my own voice when I said that I am a rape survivor. Something about the sound shook me to the core and I had to stop listening. I was too distracted to write so I made a quick blurb on Facebook about how disturbing the sound was to me. I tagged Dave asking if he’d noticed the dramatic shift and that is when a fellow female of the Atheist community decided to take my story and turn it into her own.
It seems that the concept of me wanting to discuss rape allegations with David Silverman is more disturbing than the fact that I was raped. One person saw the post and blocked me for simply having the conversation. This is fine, have your opinions and move on, I am likely better without you in my life. However in this case before leaving she decided to screenshot the story of my rape and the residual pain, block out my name and post it to her page with the false narrative that Dave is “courting victims”. I am disgusted, completely and totally ashamed that another woman, another abuse victim, would take my personal experience and manipulate it to suit her needs. I couldn’t let it go, I had to call her out. I asked why she would block my name when it was my story, she said it was because she didn’t want me to be targeted… but targeted by who exactly? If her group is the one that supports women, that cares for the well-being of victims above all else, what could I be targeted for? Being a victim of rape? A victim of domestic abuse? Having my breasts grabbed in the break room at my previous job? Would I be targeted for self evaluating my tone while I discussed those events? Would people be targeting me for asking the only other person on the call what their perception of my tone was, because I wanted to know if others heard the terror that I could hear…. or would they be targeting me because you were going to misrepresent my story… it seems like that was the answer. I wasn’t included in the conversation because I would expose the truth.
I knew that sitting down for a discussion with Dave was going to have backlash. I knew that writing about it was going to result in some lost friends and harsh words, I was okay with all of that. I have never been one to choose a side just because it happens to be trendy at the time and I am not afraid of controversy. That being said I never expected to have my story stolen, falsified and made into nothing more than a statistic. My safe place was taken away from me. Movements such as #MeToo tell victims of sexual abuse that they shouldn’t be afraid to speak out, that people support them… they leave out the fine print. Apparently the strength it takes to speak out is only worth while if it follows their story line.
I believe that all accusations of sexual assault need to be taken seriously and investigated. Unlike some of the Atheist community, I do not believe they should only be significant if the outcome fits the narrative they are trying to present. I refuse to say that all accusations of abuse are true without evidence. I will not demonize someone until I know the entire story. This is why I approached David asking to sit down and talk about the entire ordeal. When I woke up the morning after I was raped at a college party the man next to me said “don’t even say it, no one will believe you”… it seems that has changed as for the man it is now “no matter what you say, no one will believe you.”. One thing Dave said near the end of our talk was that I could easily pretend I never recorded it and could just spread around the internet that he made inappropriate comments the entire time and that if I did that, people would believe me and it would destroy what he has worked to build back up. That really struck with me… how frightening that must be to know that if one person wants to destroy you they can do it without anything more than their words. Maybe it is because I have so many amazing men in my life… my husband, my father, my brother, my stepsons… I fear that someone could do this to them… and yes, I know women that have done these things. I know a woman who would call the police and say she was being abused, then punch herself and pull her hair so that her spouse would be arrested… and she would do it all right in front of her young children. I know women who have fabricated stories of sexual abuse against themselves and their children to try to win custody battles, forcing little children to have to cry begging to not be taken away from their father, because he’d never hurt them. People think accusations equal truth but they do not… I stress again that they need to be taken seriously and investigated but we cannot jump on the band wagon and try to destroy someone before we truly understand what happened.
This is what upsets me about the SJW scene promoting the idea that giving people like David Silverman a platform to speak out is somehow dangerous to the accusers. The logic behind it just doesn’t compute for me. If the accusers can share their story, the accused deserve the same. I reached out to one of Dave’s accusers, I received no response. I reached out to Dave and he wanted to talk. That is how it went down. I don’t think that speaking to either party puts anyone in danger. I know that my experiences with sexual assault make me vulnerable and offer a perspective that (thankfully) most people don’t have. I know that it is easy to follow the majority and want to protect the accusers, but we have a legal system for a reason and I believe it is important to let things play out before declaring someone guilty.
One thought on “My story of survival isn’t yours to steal…”
Allison- I applaud your courage and integrity in examining the story behind the David Silverman story. I’m no fan of is, and have real reservations about his representing a flagship organization of the freethought movement, but we can’t become the kind of community that prejudges things, applies ideological purity tests, and shames those who engage in honest inquiry. It may be that David really should be ousted—I really don’t know enough to say—but the efforts of truth-seekers like yourself are a model for us all. Keep fighting the good fight for honest inquiry.
Know that I admire your courage and commitment to the truth. Andy Norman