I’m sorry for the pain our letter has caused everyone. I’m sorry that it comes across as an attempt to silence women or to erase women’s painful experiences. I’m thankful for people like Elaine Corden, Rob Taylor, and Meghan Bell who engaged me in respectful dialogue and made me see how, despite our intentions, the letter has done damage.
I signed the letter because I want to hold UBC accountable. The press release last November was shocking. It made Steven Galloway sound like a serial rapist. A student in the UK wrote me and asked “Jeez what’s this guy doing, chaining graduate students in his basement?” UBC left everyone to imagine the very worst of Steven. I expected when the investigation finished, UBC would issue a statement apologizing for leading people to draw such awful, damaging conclusions. That didn’t happen.
Steven Galloway has been ruined – and I suppose if you’re one of the many people who has decided he’s a monster, his ruin does not bother you so much. People have complained that this open letter jumps to the defense of a powerful white man. Sit down with Steven for five minutes. You will see that he has no power. I signed that letter out of compassion for him. He is not a monster. He is a (fallible) human being. Brad’s letter posted here clarifies why, for me, the letter was never about rape survivors. The allegations – many to do with not answering emails on time or having an inappropriate sense of humour – mostly had nothing to do with sexual misconduct. The judge did not find him guilty of sexual assault.
Years ago, local business owners were accused of wrong-doing. I accepted those rumours as truth. The rumours spread on social media and elsewhere. People (like me) who knew nothing of what actually happened ranted at great length about their awful abuse of power. Those rumours and allegations hardened into fact. I put the story about their abuse of power into one of my novels. I repeated the story on CBC radio, in Alberta and BC. The story of these people’s monstrosity spread across the nation, social media playing a huge role as it has here. Those people lost everything that matters. Last night a reliable source told me the story was never true. I felt sick and I wondered why I never questioned the story, why I was so quick to spread it, based on nothing but hearsay.I didn’t even know them. I didn’t know anybody involved.
It saddens me how fast we are to assume the very worst of each other. It scares me how easy it is to spread those assumptions. I would like to hold UBC responsible for the damage they have done, to everyone. That is why I signed the letter. Again, I am deeply sorry to everyone hurt.
Addendum to Angie Abdou’s statement:
I have (stupid me!) waded into a local controversy with this post, one that has nothing to do with Steven. I am sorry. I alluded to the local event only as an instance in which I realized that I had spread a story and vilified business owners without knowing any of the people involved. Whether the story is true or not, I do not know. That is my point: I grabbed onto the story because it served my purpose at the time (defending the rights of foreign workers, a cause I still believe in, of course). I spread the story widely, and I forgot to think about the people who were charged as human beings with their own version of events. I know due process is well underway in that case and I hope justice is served, for all. That has always been the purpose of this letter: due process. One thing I am getting a lot of practice at lately is apologizing: Sorry! Sorry! Sorry! How’s everyone else’s week going? Words are hard, hey? And the internet is poison. Due process, due process, due process. That’s all.