Why Believing Accusers Matters

Understanding The Nature Of Abuse

It’s hard enough for us as humans to understand the small things if we haven’t experienced them ourselves. For instance, it would be almost impossible to describe the purest thrill that comes from getting your first strike in bowling, or why enjoying a warm cookie straight out of the oven is always better than one that cooled off overnight if you’re talking to someone who has never experienced either of these things.

  • Why did you wait so long?
  • Why are you doing this in such a messy, public way?
  • Why didn’t you call the police?
  • Why don’t you just lawyer up?

“Drama, Drama, Drama”

Lest I be accused myself of being a proverbial “drama queen”, let me tell you that I would much rather be doing basically anything else right now. As I write this, I have a draft for a long-overdue FOIA walkthrough sitting in an adjacent tab begging for me to complete it. But priorities are priorities, and this is an important enough issue to address directly.

Believing In Practice

There’s a misconception that believing the abused means trashing the abusers. It doesn’t always have to be this way. There is no playbook for how an individual should respond to a faithful accusation. For some people, trashing the abuser is the right thing to do. For others, rallying around the abused and offering support and protection is the best course of action. Believing the abused only means giving them the benefit of the doubt.

Burn Your Fucking Idols

We all know the names Jacob Appelbaum, and Morgan Marquis-Boire for all the wrong reasons. Men who were titans in our industry. Both had a very public, and messy fall from grace. But for anyone to say that the infosec community rallied around the victims at any point and demanded justice for the accused would be revisionist history.

Why It Matters

Decisions in this space sometimes need to be made on credit and reputation alone. In fact, this concept is so important, that it’s often cited by defenders of abusers as the reason why hearing out the abused in the first place is dangerous. “A false accusation could tarnish a reputation irreparably” some say. If this is true, then what does it mean when we are dismissive of a true accusation? What then of our collective credibility?

A Final Word

Standing up to well-known, well-liked abusers comes with its own set of needless negative consequences. Some of those with the strongest voices back down in the face of blistering backlash just for defending the abused. I have personally heard:

  • I am a Social Justice Warrior (as if I should be embarrassed of this)
  • I am not a “real” hacker (whatever the fuck that even means)
  • I am a shit coder (this one is true)
  • I haven’t submitted enough CVEs to matter (If you say so, sweetie)

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