Responding to accusations of groping from Anthony Rapp, actor Kevin Spacey claimed that that interaction from 1986 was “deeply inappropriate drunken behavior,” implying that such actions aren’t the norm for him. Spacey wants to believe he’s a decent human being: it was just the alcohol that made him do it.
Spacey fans – or doubters of assault survivors in general – seem to agree. In a recent article from Vanity Fair, journalist Gay Talese tisk-tisked Rapp’s accusations, stating “I would like to ask [Spacey] how it feels to lose a lifetime of success and hard work all because of 10 minutes of indiscretion 10 years or more ago.”
Talese’s comment implies that that was Spacey’s only “indiscretion.” Unfortunately, studies indicate it is extremely uncommon for abusers to change. Over 30 years later, Spacey’s quick deflection of the incident as “drunken behavior” more than shows he hasn’t changed a bit.
So what kind of person regularly assaults and harasses people? How can we know for sure?
I’m a sexual assault survivor. Hearing other survivors’ stories can sometimes make me question everything I remember about what happened to me. But rather than force myself to nitpick the traumatic memories – was my “no” loud and clear enough, every time? – I came to the realization that a person’s character outside of a sexual context can be a strong indicator as to whether or not they are capable of violating someone. Acknowledging the harmful characteristics of my ex, and comparing them to those of my now-husband, helped validate what happened to me.
My husband and I have struggled with sexual miscommunication. Many couples do, and that doesn’t make a relationship unhealthy or abusive. It’s been frustrating when we both want different things, but my husband genuinely cares about my well-being. He supports my goals, champions my successes, encourages me in my failures, and is quick to apologize if he says something mean during an argument. He knows that when I’ve had a bad day, as much as he’d like to sit with me, sometimes the best medicine is for me to be alone for a while.
In short, he’s someone who respects my autonomy and personhood outside of the bedroom, so I don’t have to worry about him taking advantage of me inside the bedroom.
Contrasted with my relationship before him, my ex was manipulative, controlling, and dismissive of my feelings. He humiliated me in front of my friends, and when I confronted him about it, he’d turn the situation around so I was the one acting out of line: “I’m just never going to be good enough for you, am I?” He’d get irritated if I called him while he was out with his friends, but got equally upset if I didn’t answer my phone when I was out with my friends. He’d go through my closet and tell me which clothes I should get rid of because they weren’t sexy enough. He forced me to walk several paces behind him if we ever went out in public, and when no one else was around, he’d slap my ass even though I had told him several times that I hated when he did that.
It’s no surprise, then, that a person who had such little respect for me in non-sexual situations had such disregard for my autonomy when I made clear what my physical boundaries were: and he violated them, repeatedly. He would say, “Sorry I hurt you, I was having too much fun to stop.”
Reports about Spacey’s off-screen character more than suggest that he is capable – and willing – to violate anyone who is convenient. Worse, rather than simply apologize, Spacey took to Twitter and wrote a bizarre statement that seemed to connect his assault of Rapp with living in denial as a gay man.
Abuse doesn’t happen in a vacuum. A manipulative person will showcase that behavior in other ways, not just sexually.
The exact details of my assault have grown fuzzy over the years, but I will never forget the humiliation I felt. I don’t recall whether I said “No” loudly enough, or maybe it was “Stop” or “Don’t” – but I remember the powerful degradation. I remember JM saying, “What did you expect, wearing those tight pants?” And that is enough to validate what happened to me.
Rapp may not have perfect clarity of the crime itself, but he’ll always remember how violated Spacey made him feel. And Spacey validated Rapp’s statement by doing everything except admit that what he did was wrong.
An accused predator’s dismissive behavior and flippant apologies that fail to acknowledge any wrongdoing are strong indicators that his accusers are telling the truth.