CeeLo Green, sexual assault and the privilege of forgetting

Musician CeeLo Green stirred up controversy this past week for his comments on Twitter regarding rape and consent. Green faced a felony charge in 2012 after slipping a woman ecstasy. The woman woke up with no recollection of the previous night and pressed charges. At his hearing in late August, Green was sentenced to three years of probation and 360 hours of community service as part of a plea bargain in which the Goodie Mob singer pled no contest.

The controversy exploded when Green proclaimed his innocence, based on the victim’s inability to remember the incident fully. On Twitter, he wrote, “Women who have really been raped REMEMBER!!!”

This statement implicitly questions the validity of sexual assault claims and silences the voices of victims. No one occurrence of assault is worse than another––victims are affected in different ways. The definition of rape is not simple, singular or concrete.

Another tweet stated, “If someone is passed out they’re not even WITH you consciously! So WITH implies consent.” Green’s logic is that if a woman is simply “with” him physically, that is consent. Consent must always be directly stated and understood, not simply implied. And if it is not, then according to Green, what she cannot remember will not hurt her.

As a society, we need to take more initiative to publicly chastise celebrities who are accused rapists and abusers. Thankfully, the Internet’s reaction to these statements was relieving.

News websites, social media and fellow celebrities have unleashed an outpouring of criticism in addition to an overwhelming amount of fans bashing his behavior. Green was removed from the schedule of an upcoming Washington, D.C. Freedom LIVE concert along with a statement claiming that his comments conflict with the concert’s own values.

Only time will tell if Green’s career will face more consequences. Unfortunately, most celebrities bounce back from controversy and the public forgets their actions. Bill Cosby, Michael Fassbender and Mike Tyson are beloved celebrities whose abuse allegations have been swept under the rug for years in favor of their popular artistic accomplishments.

The current backlash surrounding this controversy is a small, important step toward condemning predators and dismantling rape culture. If there are allegations, the accused should not continue to be praised. Delete them from social media, cancel their shows and do not buy their products.

We need to convey the message that abuse is not acceptable. A platinum album or Oscar-winning film does not excuse someone’s past actions. Neither does an insincere apology on a Twitter account.

Dedication and consistency are essential for making real change. We cannot conveniently forget past allegations when the accused releases an awesome new song. We cannot let bygones be bygones in situations where victims are harmed and oppressed.

The public’s reaction so far has been productive and progressive, but our efforts will be in vain if we forgive the accused after a few months. Who are we to tell a victim that time heals all wounds?

Our society may have the privilege of forgetting the past actions of abusive celebrities, but sadly, their victims never will.