Let me start with a true story, one that involves four words that will make a very specific group of people roll their eyes: “The Pete Wentz Discourse”.

When I was a little tween on the internet, I was very involved in this discourse. A short rundown, as neutral as possible: Pete Wentz is the bassist for a pop-punk band called Fall Out Boy. Pete Wentz dated someone. This person, according to herself, was not underage when they started dating and really wants to be left the fuck alone about this whole thing.

That’s really all we know for sure.

I say this because the Pete Wentz Discourse, as it came to be known, was my first foray into what I call “Internet Info Telephone.” Someone says something that may or may not be true, it’s spread around. What started as, “Pete Wentz dated a girl a long time ago,” turned into, “Pete Wentz dated someone quite a bit younger than him,” into “Pete Wentz dated a 17 year old,” to “Pete Wentz dated a 15 year old, abused her, and wrote violent songs about her.”

Fucking yikes. But, I was on Tumblr at the time where calling out this game of internet telephone would just get people telling you to kill yourself. Everyone had their own vague, tenuous sources, everyone had math, and everyone knew that they were in the right about whatever they believed. Fact gave way to Tumblr editorials that were now being treated as gospel. I remember pouring over a post by someone, I forget their URL, but they had a long post about how they tied their own sexual assault to Fall Out Boy and Pete Wentz and This Girl, The Girl. At the time, this was considered The Post to send to someone about Pete Wentz.

This post has stuck with me for many years now. I took it as gospel for a long time, but then I started pulling on the thread that always bothered me. This person never intended for this post to be a callout, and I want to re-iterate that I harbour no ill will towards them, but the thread is there, and I pulled and pulled and pulled.

People never really cared about The Girl.

They said they did. This post, the one I was just talking about, holds her close to the chest and cradles her. She’s a child. She is innocent. She is the back that a multi-million dollar band was built upon. She’s not real, though, This Girl. Not just because they get her age wrong, not just because no one can agree on the specifics, but because she is not meant to be real. She is the bullet in the chamber of a gun. She is your weapon.

People online love telling other people that their favorite celebrities are terrible. It’s a hobby. Get a large enough following on any social media platform and you will see victims turn into knives. “Didn’t you know that…?” “Umm, why are you posting about…?” They become a way to end a conversation before it begins.

It doesn’t matter that The Girl asked people to leave her alone about this. It does not matter that The Girl has re-iterated that she never felt like she was a victim.

She is because she needs to be, because then her name can be plastered on an anonymous message to tell someone that they’re wrong, because they like this guy, and how do they not know about The Girl? What he did to her?

Even 7, almost 8 years later, I still remember these moments.

There’s a term called “re-victimization” that survivors of violent crime will use, and there is one specific use I want to focus on: Being re-traumatized through the criminal justice system. This happens through a number of methodologies, one being the constant re-living and repeating of your story.

I wonder, then, what it is like to be The Victim.

The Victim is The Girl, or should I say The Girl is an example of The Victim. Internet telephone. A figure that people can use as they please, will endlessly argue about, because The Victim is no longer a person. They’ve gone beyond that.

Decades ago, you were abused or assaulted. You tell your story, or perhaps your story gets out against your will, and what do you get for it? Usually, nothing. Look at Rihanna and Chris Brown. People know what he did, and don’t care. They will choose to ignore you.

And then there are those that care, they say. They care so much, they shout it from the roof tops. They will fight in your honor, knights, regardless of your wishes. Why not? It becomes a game to them. You are their new Victim, and as such they can make snide posts on the internet about how people who like your Abuser are terrible. They enjoy your pain, in a way, because it gives them the chance to feel superior over someone else. And isn’t that what the internet is all about? Feeling like you have one over on someone? You are their ace in the hole.

It continues to happen. Every time someone is called out, you can feel a sort of sick glee from people who never liked them to begin with. They will tell you, “Well, I knew from the beginning they were terrible. I’m not surprised.” We ignore the fact that those words are subtle victimblaming in the case that something did, truly happen. We ignore the fact that it is, at best, self-congratulatory and pointless to say such things.

We ignore The Victim, because they get in the way of this.

The internet wave continues to rise and crash. People who led these mobs continue to fall and be devoured by those who were once most devout. On the right tongue, everyone can be eucharist.

I acknowledge the hypocracy in this post. I know that by bringing up old news, I am also a part of this culture, I am continuing to feed even if it is from a more critical stance. And that’s fine. I think we have to talk about these things at some point even if it is uncomfortable to talk about. We have to admit we’re wrong sometimes. We have to go, “I fucked up. Here’s what I am trying to do to fix this.”

It’s easy to say this when you’re not part of the wave. Speaking out is a perfect way to get dragged under. If you stop and think, then you hate The Victim, you love The Abuser, you apologia and victim blame and it all turns to static for you, at some point. And you hate that it turns to static. And you hate that you start becoming skeptical.

I got out of this, I think. It’s hard to say when you’re out of it because you never know you’re in it, but I think I got out of it at some point.

You have to kill the part of you that likes punitive justice. Or, rather, “Kill the cop inside your head.”

I want you to think about The Victim. I want you to think about The Girl. I want you to think about the friends in your circle who may become The Victim.

They are who you should be working for. Not wrath. Not a sense of righteous justice. Not a sense of revenge.

You should always be skeptical, even if it makes you feel like a bad person, a bad feminist, a bad leftist. You should not just allow yourself, but force yourself to take a step back on occasion.

Everything you do, you should for compassion.

That’s all I can ask.

And to The Victims out there, I am sorry. I am sorry that your stories have been used to push narratives that are often against your will. I am sorry that you are forced to relive this.

And to those brought down in these waves even though you didn’t deserve it, I am sorry. I am sorry that you are a pariah. I am sorry that basic courtsey was not afforded to you.

And to you, whoever is reading this, if anyone. Thank you for reading this incoherent rambling. I hope it made sense.

I love you all.

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