It's been nearly two weeks since the news broke about Kirk Nesset's sentencing, and I'm still processing.
I think I will probably always be processing.
Skeezy as he could be, I doubt anyone expected the level of depravity he stooped to.
Some people just can't process that someone they knew, trusted, and even loved could participate in the rape and exploitation of children.
Half a fucking million of them.
I obsessed over this for months.
Over the course of the past year, I've obsessively been checking news outlets and googling for any updates on his case.
It was all I could think about.
I chose to dig deeper into the case, to read the files and affidavits that were made available to the public. In a way I probably knew that digging deeper would make my pain and outrage that much worse, but I couldn't stop. I wanted to bear witness. I felt like I owed it to the half a million unknown souls.
After I read the affidavit, I spent the entire day balled up in the fetal position in my darkened room, unable to think, unable to breathe, unable to move. It brought up a lot of unwanted memories and flashbacks of my own abuse--something I've been working a long time to bury. I don't have access to all the memories, and even though that keeps me up at night some days, I'm almost thankful for it. I know something happened, and I know who did it. I know who was complicit in it. Even though there's a part of me that wants to know more, I'm thankful that my brain has blocked this part of my life from me. It's too much to bear.
The Kirk Nesset trial has brought out a lot of ugliness in my life. It's triggered memories and feelings of my own childhood sexual abuse. It's triggered memories of being physically assaulted, sexually coerced and emotionally manipulated as an adult. It's caused me to remember all of the times Kirk Nesset was predatory towards me, and how in the few times that I actually realized how wildly inappropriate he was being, I doubted my own judgement because I thought he wasn't capable of being shady because he was a respected authority figure. It's caused me to lose friendships--mostly tertiary people who in the long run don't matter much to me, but one in particular who I really loved and valued as one of my closest friends.
Everyone processes their grief and anger differently, and it's something I have to remind myself of when folks don't immediately jump on the "Fuck Kirk Nesset" bandwagon with me.
But some people are burying their fucking heads in the sand, and that is entirely unacceptable.
I was aware that Nesset had supporters in the Allegheny community, and I was subjected to a lot of their bullshit when I attended the community meeting in the wake of the initial report. "I had dinner with him, he can't be a bad guy!" was the most asinine, but the faculty member who stood up and said she supported Nesset because "we don't have the whole story!" even though he FUCKING CONFESSED TO THE FBI ABOUT WHAT HE DID and she was the GODDAMN CAMPUS NEWSPAPER ADVISOR was the absolute worst. Though I suppose in a way it was brave of her to be outright and forthcoming about her support, rather than sending letters of support to the judge more anonymously (to the community, I mean).
David Miller, tenured English professor, also publicly voiced his support for Nesset in a subsequent Campus Newspaper article following Nesset's sentencing. Miller, who was present for his sentencing, said he was impressed with the "compassion and deliberation of the judge." The Campus reported that Miller "felt the prosecution’s suggested sentence was unreasonable." It was originally reported that he would be sentenced somewhere in the ballpark of 10-15 years, but he was ultimately sentenced to 76 months, or a little over six years. It's a small cry from the mandatory minimum of five years, which is what a friend and I predicted he would get because of his status in the literary community. Miller was actually quoted as saying that he was "relieved that it wasn't more [time], because of fucking COURSE he did. White men of status always rally around other white men of status.
Well, David Miller, fuck you.
Congratufuckinglations on never being personally victimized by Kirk Nesset like so many of my fellow female classmates were.
Congratufuckinglations that your daughters were not among those half a million daughters whom he exploited.
Congratuguckinglations that you belong to the protected class, and that you'll never fucking know how absolutely fucking terrifying it is to be a woman or female-presenting in the world.
Congratufuckinglations on being in the protected class, I hope you enjoy it.
And look, I get it, not everyone wants to see Kirk Nesset's head on a fucking spike like I do.
And that's fine.
But there's a major goddamn difference between acknowledging him as a person and his obvious mental health struggles and still holding him accountable for his actions, and just outright excusing him, making him the center of trial when it should be those half a million unknown children.
One person who later unfriended me for views on Nesset disclosed that she had been sexually assaulted on campus, and that Nesset had been a source of support and comfort for her.
Honestly, I can't even imagine what it would feel like to know that the person who supported me through a sexual assault had participated in the sexual assault of children and babies.
I don't know how I would process that.
But see, that's the thing about psychopaths like Kirk Nesset.
They earn the trust of people around them.
They establish themselves in the community, and are viewed as pillars of respect.
That's how they get away with it for so long.
It's honestly entirely possible that Nesset's concern for this person was genuine--contrary to popular belief, psychopaths can form relationships and attachments to some people--and even if he was faking it, it doesn't make it any less real to the person who was assaulted.
I can understand why she wanted to sever our friendship, and I bear her no ill will.
I do, however, bear ill will towards faculty members who wrote letters of support for Nesset.
Who ignored or looked the other way at his inappropriate behaviors towards the female population at Allegheny.
While I didn't realize it at the time, there were faculty in the English department who advocated for my safety around him, who warned me in subtle ways that I didn't pick up on at the time.
I am forever grateful to them.
One of them just directly asked why I was always hanging around after hours--to see his little Pomeranian Ryan, of course--and even though it went right over my head at the time, I'm thankful that she was watching out for me.
Another just straight up told me to go home another time--I wasn't sure why she was being so gruff towards me, but I get it now.
So to them, I say: thank you for helping me, for watching out for me and other young women.
I know of a couple instances where they reported him for inappropriate behavior, and that the Dean DeMeritt routinely dismissed them.
Thank you for doing the best that you could within a system that protected him and the reputation of the College above all else.
I've thought about reaching out to these women for some time to thank them, but I honestly don't know if they'd even remember me. I don't know how they would react.
There's one person in my life who I've been processing this with over the past year or so, and I am forever thankful to them as well.
A lot of folks have taken to tone policing me, or unfriending me, or ignoring me, which (beside the tone policing) are valid responses, because some folks aren't ready to engage or don't want to engage for whatever reason.
There is no right way to process this.
There is, however, a wrong way, and that way is to gloss over half a million victims and focus solely on poor Kirk Nesset, who, as it was nauseatingly reported in The Campus, "will probably never see his ailing parents as a free man."
To those (statistically speaking at Allegheny: white, male, tenured) faculty who wrote letters of support to Kirk Nesset:
To those who turn their backs to the suffering of half a million victims because you had lunch with him or some shit and he seemed like a "cool dude" (actual fucking quote):
To those who will never understand what it was like to live and learn under the shadow of a person who consistently violated the personal boundaries of his female students:
Fuck your willful ignorance.
Fuck your silence.
Fuck your complicity.
Fuck you for your continued participation in the marginalization and victimization of women.