I got a whole bunch of messages on my Tumblr like this and I didn’t answer them right away because I wanted to do the answer justice. A lot of you may know all of this already but some may not so here we go:
(warning: there are rape/abuse triggers under the cut)
A couple of years ago, as you may know, it came out that Mike Lombardo sexually/emotionally manipulated a handful of teenage girls. When this came out it was earth-shattering to most of the Youtube community because he always “seemed like a nice guy,” but was incredibly manipulative and sociopathic. I know and deeply care about some of the victims of his actions (I’m not going to mention their names out of respect to them), and they went through a living hell having to deal with all of the emotional damage and aftermath of their friendships/relationships with Mike.
Much of the YouTube community and the LeakyCon community were shocked and repulsed by how fucking despicable Mike’s actions were, and many, many people were very supportive of the victims. (Especially Melissa Anelli who needs to be mentioned because she rocks.) Considering everyone could recognize how unthinkable Mike’s actions were, it seemed like it would have been an isolated incident within the community.
Which is absolutely devastating news.
When I was younger, I looked up to all three of these guys. I was one of the 14 year old girls who thought I was in love with Alex Day. The simple idea that these guys would take advantage of the admiration of the persona they choose to present themselves with is scary. These guys splice together the funny, charming parts of themselves to present to us, for whatever reason that internet personas do that: fun, validation, expression, etc. But what’s scary about these guys is that they use it against girls who believe the persona that they put out there. (John Green explains this idea pretty well here.)
These girls are not naive. They are not to blame. You can say that a sixteen year old girl “knew what she was doing” all the live long day but that doesn’t change the fact that men are manipulating girls and intimidating them to have sex, even when they have said that they don’t want to.
What makes this whole ordeal even worse (it’s surprising that it can get even worse than this, but it can) is the reaction from the community. Some people have taken to blaming victims for “ruining the lives of these YouTubers.” If you think that. Stop. Now.
If you are tempted to use the defense of “I know this person, he wouldn’t do that!!!” you need to remember that you do not know these people. Trust me, I know better than anyone that sitting alone in your room, watching hours and hours of videos when you feel like an outcast makes you feel like you’ve found someone who gets you, like your really know them. You don’t. You know the parts of that person that they have chosen to make public. You know the image they have created. There are YouTubers who are good people, and those who are bad people, but at the end of the day you don’t really know any of them.
What makes this even worse is the fact that some people have used these incidents coming to light to make accusations against other YouTubers. I literally cannot fathom why anyone would ever ever falsely accuse someone of sexual or emotional abuse, but YouTubers Dan Howell, Tyler Oakley, and Phil Lester were falsely accuse because???? they’re popular??? I really don’t know why, but accusations like these cause irreparable damage. Obviously, accusing someone of statutory rape can have negative affects on their life, can even ruin a person’s career or social life. But what you don’t think about when you falsely accuse someone is how far back you are setting victims, both past and future. Already, rape accusations are taken warily because you get self-centered and narrow people (cough cough Steubenville reporters) who can only see the damaging effects rape has on the lives of rapists. People are so afraid of giving innocent people the severe (not severe enough in my opinion, but that’s another post for another time) consequences of rape, that 97 percent of rapists don’t face a damn consequence. Ninety. Seven. Percent. When you falsely accuse random people of rape for fun, you’re not only jeopardizing their lives, but you are bolstering the argument that lets almost all rapists walk free. False accusations are the sole reason why rapists walk free. The fact that so many rapists are never convicted contributes to so much superfluous emotional trauma even after having been raped.
When you falsely accuse someone for attention, or victim shame people because you don’t want “your image” of your favorite YouTuber to be damaged you are basically saying “fuck all the emotional trauma you went through” to not only the victims in these instances, but in all instances of rape.
Both falsely accusing someone of rape and victim shaming, two opposite sides of the same spectrum, hurt victims. These mentalities, especially toward statutory rape, need to stop. It’s so easy to stack up all of these events and feel like a community that has always seemed supportive and welcoming is fake or crumbling, but it’s not. The YouTube community is known for rallying together to help each other! We need to remain a supportive and loving community. We need to support victims. Not defend manipulators. Not steal their attention. Support them.