In the days since Hunger Games star Jena Malone alleged that a co-worker on the set of the blockbuster action franchise sexually assaulted her years ago, she’s faced a swarm of comments on her post demanding that she identify her alleged rapist and essentially calling her selfish for not doing so.
In Malone’s Instagram post, in which she writes that she “was sexually assaulted by someone I had worked with” while filming The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2, Malone describes struggling to navigate the mixed emotions she feels about her time on set. “I wish it wasn’t tied to such a traumatic event for me but that is the real wildness of life I guess. How to hold the chaos with the beauty,” she wrote. “I’ve worked very hard to heal and learn thru restorative justice, how to make peace with the person who violated me and make peace with myself.”
Per Malone’s own words, she’s “made peace” with her assailant and sought this through “restorative justice,” rather than through the criminal legal system, which we know often fails survivors. But many on the internet feel entitled to more information about the alleged assault: “This is sad all around but not naming the person who assaulted you is putting other people at risk,” one commenter wrote. “Do you not think that people who sexually assault another should be ‘canceled’? … Maybe the person who assaulted you also assaulted someone else before you. You are enabling the perpetrator. Please do better and name the person!!”
“It’s great that you have managed to heal … Not going to lie though, wish whoever assaulted you was held responsible for their terrible actions against you,” another commenter wrote.
I’m befuddled by the notion that a survivor could simply name their abuser and bring them to justice—a belief that flies in the face of essentially everything we’ve seen survivors face upon coming forward. It’s especially galling in the wake of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s defamation trial last year, when Heard did try to bring Depp to account and was widely demonized, called a liar, and basically driven out of public life. Frenzied media coverage of the trial made it into a public spectacle for voyeuristic consumption, and Heard was required to detail every aspect of perhaps the most traumatic period of her life. Then, even in the face of extensive evidence of years of abuse, she faced an aggressive public harassment campaign and was ordered to pay thousands to a man who appears to have apologized via text for allegedly beating her on a private plane.
The public disclosure of nearly every aspect of the abuse Heard faced didn’t save her. Nor were other victims much helped by a trial that popularized all kinds of victim-blaming and harassment tactics, like the misleading narrative of “mutual abuse” or defamation suits to silence victims. Nonetheless, “fans” or at least followers of Malone are insisting that her decision to process and heal from her assault in a private, non-punitive manner was somehow selfish.
Thankfully, many have already expressed support for Malone in the face of cruel reactions. “The moment she names someone you like you’ll start calling her a liar. and with how defamation lawsuits are on the rise + the way you’ve treated the women who came forward, you’re in no position to demand anything,” one user wrote in a Friday tweet. To be clear, Heard was sued for defamation—and lost—despite not even naming Depp in the op ed in question. Asking that Malone name her alleged abuser is asking her to risk pretty serious legal troubles.
“Commenting on a survivor’s post that they need to name and therefore ‘cancel’ the perpetrator really sums up how people are under the illusion that predators can be stopped via internet discourse and are using that false belief to harm survivors directly,” NBC reporter Kat Tenbarge wrote in another tweet.
The early support Malone is receiving following the gross demands being made of her is heartening—I just wish public-facing survivors weren’t subjected to invasive questions and harassment campaigns in the first place.