Talking [And Continuing to Talk] About Sexual Assault in the Animation Industry

Last night Adventure Time storyboard revisionist Emily Partridge went to twitter to identify Skyler Page, creator of the Cartoon Network series Clarence, as the person who had sexually assaulted her, an incident she revealed earlier via the same method.

Cartoon Brew covered all of this about as thoroughly as it could be, so I’m not going to hash out for all of you exactly what went down. They compile tweets from not only Partridge, but also others in the industry such as Regular Show storyboard artist Ryan Pequin and Steven Universe writer and board artist Lamar Abrams. Again, it would be great if you could read it.

This isn’t going to be a post on mental health, which is a factor that can’t be ignored in this incident, and which reading through the article above would help explain. The reason I’m coming to the internet and adding my drop to what’s already becoming an overflowing bucket is because of how I initially heard about it, as well as follow-up commentary along the exact same lines.

A post appeared on my tumblr feed which was essentially pointing to people on Twitter who supported Partridge’s story. Even before I clicked on the links to see what this was all about, what caught my eye were the tags below the words themselves-

thepeoplespeakingupabouthtis

Let me reiterate that first line again: “the people speaking up about this are more likely to get blacklisted by the animation community than the guy who’s assaulting people.” Animator Geneva Hodgson shines some additional light on the situation:

There’s a long and painful history of victims of sexual assault and rape finding it difficult to come forward due to the shame of having been attacked, but the harsh reality is that there’s far more to it than that. As mentioned above, there’s the fear of being blacklisted within a particular industry for “making too much noise”, or, what may be even worse, not being believed at all.

The question that Partridge, and many other creators, are asking is: What do we need to do to stay safe?

While one of her solutions was to go to HR as well as publicly announce what had happened, further conversations with others has happened regarding “creating some kind of online safe space for women [sic] is situations like this.” Again the focus is on safety, and I’m one hundred percent for physical or digital spaces where those who have been or believe they could be attacked can turn to. It’s a great idea, but you know what would be even better? If men would speak up as well.

Here are Partridge and Hodgson once again:

In the event that the above are a little too hard for you to grasp, being tweets and all, allow me to turn to the 1800s and the words of English political philosopher John Stuart Mill, who said [emphasis added]-

“Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.

The thing is that of course someone could have stopped this from happening.

It’s not hard to extrapolate from the tweet above that people knew about Page’s behaviour. The assumption that maybe it was only women who were aware of this breaks down further with Abrams’ sharing that he heard from a lot of people: “i thought everyone knew to stay away from him.” Now if that isn’t the weakest sort of argument I don’t know what is.

Look, I love Steven Universe. It’s a really wonderful, hilarious, generally positive cartoon, and it could not have existed without creator/artist/composer/director Rebecca Sugar. That’s only a single concrete example of what women are contributing to the industry, and it should go without saying that there’s a whole lot more.

The fact that there are so many women in animation [and really everywhere else] who live in fear that they might be assaulted and dismissed for coming forward is a travesty, and one that could be addressed if people could just say something when they see something. It’s undoubtedly an amazing thing that Partridge came forward, but let’s not forget how awful it is that she had to in the first place.

Here are two proverbs that you’ve gotta excise completely when thinking about sexual assault and rape: “Silence is golden” and “If you have nothing good to say don’t say it.” I’m not going to claim that sexual assault is ever going to disappear, but if everyone starts, and keeps, talking about it you can be sure it’ll happen a lot less.

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