What now? What about the people?
As for the abusers and boundary breakers? They can choose to stop the behavior. They absolutely can and then they can come back. They need to apologize for what they did, make big observable changes to their behavior.
You however? The person who was hurt? Does not have to accept the apology and be around them. Ever. Ever. Ever. You do not owe anyone your time or your energy. If a leader pushes you to meet with someone that hurt you that leader is most likely in the wrong and not to be trusted either. Obviously I can’t know the details of every situation but if you feel unsafe? DO NOT MEET WITH THE ABUSER. You don’t have to. I wish someone had told me that as a child so I’m telling you now. And I’ll tell you as often as you need.
You don’t have to spend time with people who hurt you. Ever. If you hurt them back you should own that and figure out how to deal with it. Try not to do that again. Try not to harm the community that had nothing to do with it (if the community enabled it that’s something else). You are entitled to your pain, your learned patterns to deal with abuse but you are also responsible for your own growth and change. Just like at some point we have to stop blaming our parents for what they did when we were a child we need to stop letting the abusers dictate our entire lives. Person A that was on my staff doesn’t get to dictate my hiring choices forever. It isn’t fair to all the other folks that might look or sound like A that aren’t like that. X, the groper from con, doesn’t get to make me afraid of getting hugs from other larger than me people forever. Not unless I want them to. Not unless I decide that’s a conscious risk I choose to take with my life.
Every person is different. Every set of decisions we make to get here to this moment leads to a unique combination that makes up who we are. And you know what? I’m still afraid of hugs from big dudes I don’t know well. I may not ever get past that. There will probably always be a question mark in my mind about it because our culture reinforces the fact that our bodies are not really our own and that we might not be believed. I can only make the choice for myself, protect others when I can, and hope for a better future. I can only hope that these words get heard, maybe get remembered a little bit, and that a change comes.
Thanks for listening.