For years, I’ve followed the same protocol when victims and survivors approached me directly. I told them right away: 1. I’m not a therapist, so seek professional help; 2. if you’re able and willing, report crimes to the police; 3. I’m a publicist, so our collaboration should end in a publication, at least potentially; 4. the confidentiality between us is mutual.
These days, I’ve stopped reporting abuse on a day-to-day basis. When I’m approached by victims or survivors—only when they wish me to—I refer them to trustworthy colleagues in mainstream media instead.
My fourth point seems to be the hardest promise to live up to: while adamantly insisting on the confidentiality on my part, some victims or survivors who agreed to this condition felt that they were free to discuss our interactions with third parties or even online—as if that were a private space.
I explain to them that Western Buddhist communities are so tiny and Western Buddhists so talkative, that it’s impossible to protect sources under such working conditions. Besides, as a journalist I’m subjected to professional oversight and legally liable for professional mistakes.
So, I broke off contact with them, because such one-way-street liberties are just unworkable, both for myself and the colleague journalists they might interact with later.
All things considered, interacting with professional journalists is very different indeed from the free-for-all, make-up-the-rules-as-you-go-and-as-you-please on most social media and blogs.
There’s a logic to that, of course: the protection of all of the involved. On social media and blogs, such protection is rare.
These days, I still stand by my advice to victims and survivors: 1. seek professional help; 2. report crimes to the police; 3. publish your case with professional journalists; 4. maintain confidentiality.
I know this is hard. And yet, it offers the best protection available to everyone—future victims and survivors included.
Originally posted as a long-Tweet on September 25, 2022 (with slight edits).