It’s been six months since I spoke publicly about Louis C.K. in the New York Times. Nevertheless, I’m still getting media requests to talk about it. During this time, it’s become clear that many people have no understanding of just how extensive and complicated the ramifications of what C.K. did have been, and continue to be. They didn’t end the day it happened and won’t end any time soon for me, a comedian who has now spoken out against one of her own. So in the hopes I stop getting asked about it, I’ve decided to explain a few things about this impossible situation.
The day Louis C.K. asked to masturbate in front of me on the set of the TV show we were shooting, I was put on an unspoken “list” I never asked or wanted to be on. And being on that list has not made my work as a writer, actress, and comedian any easier. It was never on my vision board to be a Time magazine “silence breaker” or a lifelong goal to be pictured in People magazine, labeled as a “victim.” For 12 years, I actively tried to not be part of the C.K. masturbation narrative. But no matter how hard I tried, it kept finding me — at work-related events, on TV sets, social settings, and comedy clubs. I’d hear people defending him while unabashedly tearing apart the women who’d tried to bring what he was doing to light. It angered me and felt shameful to sit in silence, but I did, because I didn’t want to be a part of it.
A few weeks before I spoke out, I was at a social gathering where a woman was attacking Tig Notaro for calling on C.K. to address misconduct allegations. It really pissed me off. This time, I didn’t stay silent. I confronted the woman, defended Tig, and told her my experience. It was uncomfortable, embarrassing, and a real party-stopper. A couple weeks later, I was at a work-related event where I left feeling humiliated and disrespected by someone I liked who is close to C.K. I was hurt and stayed up all night wondering why it happened, and what this person could have been told about me. The next day, I was exhausted and furious. I had no choice but to face the fact that I’d been forced into a lose-lose situation, and staying silent was not helping.
I then took time to look at myself and my role in all of this. I considered the further personal and professional consequences there would be. The awkwardness it would cause with certain people, and how vulnerable it would make me. The fact that my name would be connected to his for speaking out made me sick. But then I thought about the fact that I tour the country saving victimized dogs, and advocate that “to ignore abuse is to condone it.” Every single day, I implore people to stand up for victims, but I wasn’t even standing up for myself. For these reasons, and for others too personal to mention, I made the difficult decision to change the narrative by telling the truth.
Since speaking out, I’ve experienced vicious and swift backlash from women and men, in and out of the comedy community. I’ve received death threats, been berated, judged, ridiculed, dismissed, shamed, and attacked.
Some have said, “He just asked to jerk off in front of you, what’s the big deal?” And I can’t count how many times people have told me, “Well, he did say sorry.” But he didn’t. Admitting what you did, and justifying it with “I always asked first,” is not the same as apologizing.
The comedians who choose to shame and attack are the most disappointing of all. Dave Chappelle, a self-proclaimed “feminist,” used his Netflix special as an opportunity to single out one of the C.K. accusers, saying she has a “brittle-ass spirit.” His rambling bit, filled with ignorance and vitriol, isn’t comedy. It’s just another example of a comedy giant misusing his power and platform to hurt someone. I heard another high-profile comedian on a podcast say he believes what C.K. did is no different than what Letterman did — referring to Letterman’s consensual relationship with an intern. To see certain outspoken late-night talk-show hosts relentlessly go after Weinstein, Trump, and others for their misconduct, and avoid mentioning C.K.’s name is just weird. I wonder, if he did what he did to their wives, sisters, mothers, or daughters, would it still be not worth mentioning?
It’s also been heartbreaking to see people I liked and respected lie and defend him. Two close friends I’d trusted and confided in for years, who were at the taping when it happened, refused to corroborate what happened to me in the New York Times using their names. Other friends simply stopped communicating with me. These are the same people I had seen on social media, proudly wearing pussy hats and Time’s Up pins at the Women’s March. Speaking out feels like standing in front of the world naked under fluorescent lights on a really bad day. I knew making myself so vulnerable would bring scrutiny from the outside, but my personal life has also been damaged by my decision to tell the truth.
That said, this experience has also revealed to me who has integrity, and I’m extremely grateful for that. There have been some incredible people who have publicly shown support and voiced intolerance for predatory behavior of any kind. New friends have come from this, and some comedians have thanked me for telling the truth, admitted they knew about it for years, and shared some horrible stories about things they’ve endured themselves. A well-known female comedian publicly acknowledged her friendship with and love for C.K. while at the same time condemning his behavior. She showed her support for the people he victimized and challenged everyone to do better. I appreciated that because I understand how uncomfortable, weird, gross, and awful this situation is for people to deal with and talk about. That’s exactly how I felt for 12 years. I don’t expect any of C.K.’s pals to disavow their friendships or deny his talent, but acknowledgement of abusers, and support for the abused, is needed for change to happen. Especially in comedy.
Now I’m being asked if I think C.K. will make a “comeback.” The idea that C.K. reentering the public eye would ever be considered a “comeback” story is disturbing. The guy exploited his position of power to abuse women. A “comeback” implies he’s the underdog and victim, and he is neither. C.K. is a rich, powerful man who was fully aware that his actions were wrong. Yet he chose to behave grotesquely simply because he could. The only issue that matters is whether he will choose to stop abusing women. The Time’s Up and #MeToo movements, and the journalists who cover them, would do well to focus on the people struggling in the aftermath, and less on the celebrities attaching themselves to the movement and salacious clickbait details. Everyone deserves to do their job without fear of being forced into an impossible situation. And no one should ever be attacked or judged for standing up for themselves.
I’d love to sum this up with a rainbow-and-butterfly sentiment about how this journey has enriched my life and brought me peace. But the truth is, it’s hell making the decision to speak out, and it’s hell after the decision has been made. That said, I will never regret telling the truth. I and so many others didn’t feel we had options, but hopefully now that’s changing. My advice to those thinking about telling their truth is to follow your heart, and do it for you. The truth won’t make a wrong right. It won’t stop some abusers from continuing their abuse and denial. It won’t stop the internet trolls, the clickbait journalism, or the friends who disappear when times are tough. Not everyone will respect your truth, and you may suffer further for telling it. But the truth will set you free.