White Knighting, when someone in a privileged position rushes in (without permission) to rescue someone in a situation that the rescuer does not understand, is a complicated thing. There is a fine line to walk between failing to stick up for your friends on one side and picking fights on their behalf on the other. Easy to fuck up, even if you remember to check your privilege before starting. I get this one wrong all the damn time. I get it. It’s hard.
Here’s one that’s not hard. Not at all hard. What is going through people’s heads when they demand that someone else fight battles bigger than they are willing or able to fight? I’m going to call this Black Knighting– when someone in a privileged position rushes you in (without permission) to a fight you didn’t start and don’t want to finish. Named both for the role reversal and for the fact that the heckler expects the hapless champion to give everything to the cause. You know, like this:
Full disclosure: I did not report. I was large enough to be in no real danger of physical reprisals, but I was also fifteen and it would be years before I would completely understand what had happened. The entire support structure that I was willing to trust with my story consisted of one person- also fifteen. Sometimes I regret it; sometimes I do not, but I never blame myself. Not anymore.
I don’t ever want to discourage anyone from reporting. If I can do anything to help support someone else who is reporting, just tell me what. But you do not have the right to demand that someone else report. You don’t get to force someone else to be a hero. Ever.
Maybe they would be better off reporting. Maybe other people would be better of if they reported. But if they do report, they are the ones who will be called liars. They are the ones who will face reprisals. They are the ones who might be triggered and have to relive the whole thing again. So it’s their call.
I don’t care if it’s happened to you or not. I don’t care if you reported it when it happened to you or not. You don’t get to make that call for someone else. Why? Because what happened to them has not happened to you. Every person is different, every community is different and each and every individual crime is different. You may encourage victims to report. You may set up community support structures to help them report. But you may never demand that they report.