Voices: We need to stop expecting women like Katherine Ryan to name their abusers – why would they?

·4-min read
‘Am I supposed to not feed my children because of someone else?’ Ryan has said  (Getty Images)
‘Am I supposed to not feed my children because of someone else?’ Ryan has said (Getty Images)

We can’t expect Katherine Ryan to name predators in the industry. Not when we can’t keep women who speak out safe.

That’s right: the comedian has recently been criticised for talking about predators in the comedy circuit on her podcast, and new Prime show – but refusing to name them. Backstage with Katherine Ryan promises to lift the lid on what goes on in comedy with its hidden cameras and backstage footage. It does deliver on that – but leaves many of us wondering who these perpetrators are.

Ryan is filmed talking in the dressing room about goings-on in the industry with fellow comic Sara Pascoe, who then reveals she’s experienced similar events.

“I’ve done a show with someone you and I believe is a predator,” Ryan says to her. “What am I supposed to do? It’s such a messy thing, because I don’t have proof. Am I supposed to not feed my children because of someone else?”

Yet fans don’t agree with her handling of the matter – some women have even been commenting on an Instagram post on Ryan’s account discussing it. They say that if it carries on, it will be her fault. If he does it again, it will be because of her not naming him.

In my opinion, the burden of responsibility does not lie with women to report it – but with the men carrying out the abuse. Ryan said that she called this man a predator to his face – and to everyone else who was there. That seems to guarantee that other men knew about it. Why dont they come forward? Why don’t they speak out and say something about letting him “slip through the net”, as we hear so often in other cases?

Surely, anyone can understand why she wouldn’t be interested in calling him out? When women speak out, it ruins their lives – just like it did for Amber Heard and Virginia Giuffre. We don’t know the full picture, but their failure in court and victimisation in the press, is not going to encourage other women to speak out. In Heard’s case, the jury ruled in favour of Depp.

I get it. I haven’t spoken out about predators either because of the professional implications.

When I was a student, studying a postgrad in broadcast journalism, I interned at a major national news channel. I walked into a morning news meeting in a little room – and was greeted by the news editor watching porn on his phone. I didn’t say anything. I made a pact with myself, right there, that I would never tell anyone about it; not my lecturer who placed me there, not my coursemates and not my boyfriend. I just sat down, opened my notebook and fixed my eyes elsewhere until the room filled with other people and the meeting began.

It didn’t matter. The next day, while I sat at the newsdesk for a different show, he stood behind me and made an announcement to the new team I was working with that I was “s***”. I don’t think he knew he was standing behind me. I’d never sat at that desk before and I was wearing a different jacket. But he told them not to let the interns from my university do anything, because we really weren’t any good at all.

I was furious. I’d been the perfect victim – a silent one, and it didn’t matter.

Why on earth would anyone speak out in this kind of climate? Katherine Ryan shouldn’t name this guy, just like I shouldn’t name the newsroom masturbator. It’s not safe. Look at what happened to Amber Heard. Amber Heard had evidence – plus more money and more resources than Ryan – and she still lost.

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Now she has nothing but a huge bill she can’t pay, her reputation in shreds, lost job opportunities and her scenes cut from Aquaman 2. Not to mention the global humiliation Depp openly promised her – experiences such as online petitions started to end her career.

More men are following suit now with defamation claims, like Johnny Depp’s friend Marilyn Manson. He’s filed against Evan Rachel Wood over her sexual abuse allegations. Angelina Jolie cited domestic violence in her divorce from Pitt, with even the children prepared to give evidence. Now he’s suing her. He couldn’t get her for that abuse claim, so he’s saying she “sought to inflict harm” when she sold her portion of the vineyard they co-owned.

Women’s rights are moving backwards socially and in the legal system.

We’ve got to a place where if a woman is abused, it’s “her fault”. If a man goes on to abuse another woman – that somehow, is also her fault. If she reports him, and beyond all the odds, wins – and a judge gives a guilty verdict – he might not do prison time anyway. That kind of thing could have “a severe impact” on a young man, as the judge who sentenced the Stanford rapist said.

As Ryan said, we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. And at the end of the day, we still have to put food on the table.

If you have been raped or sexually assaulted, you can contact your nearest Rape Crisis organisation for specialist, independent and confidential support. For more information, visit their website here.

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