Why We Need To Support Whistleblowers If We Want To Hold Abusive Narcissists Accountable

Lissa Rankin, MD
8 min readNov 11, 2023

After the UK Channel 4 Dispatches documentary and The Times long format article detailed the allegations of four women accusing Russell Brand of sexual assault broke the news, any other women who might also cry #MeToo were invited to come forward. In response to these whistleblowers’ stories and investigative reporting, UK police have now opened an investigation into Russell Brand and these investigations.

In a short statement on Monday, London’s Metropolitan Police said, “On Sunday, September 17, the Met received a report of a sexual assault which was alleged to have taken place in Soho in central London in 2003,” adding that police were “in contact with the woman and will be providing her with support.”

They also said, “Following an investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches and The Sunday Times, the Met has received a number of allegations of sexual offenses in London. We have also received a number of allegations of sexual offenses committed elsewhere in the country and will investigate these. The offenses are all non-recent.”

I hear people all over social media in the wellness and spirituality world defending Russell Brand (and others accused of abuses of power and sexual assault), saying “Innocent until proven guilty.” And yes! In a court of law, you are innocent until proven guilty, thank God.

But if you’re a public figure, the criminal justice system is a long, slow process. If we were to just do nothing when brave people are coming out and telling their stories, if we were to continue granting someone a platform until a court has issued a verdict, you’d wind up with the debacle of what happened with John of God and Oprah.

My partner Jeff was involved in that whole shakedown. He’d been conducting research down in Brazil at John of God’s “Casa” and there had been whispers of rape and sexual assault at the hands of John of God for a long time. But the women were too intimidated by the “healer” who turned out to be a mob boss to come forward, so no charges were made for over a decade and it took even longer to stop him and put him in prison for the rest of his life. Jeff had warned Oprah, and to her credit, Oprah sent a team down to investigate the rumors before promoting him on her show twice. But nobody could prove that the rumors were true.

We’re now learning that protecting whistleblowing victims while also protecting the reputations of public figures who are accused of committing rape and sexual assault is challenging. If we wait until a court case is done, the perpetrator may commit even more harm while we wait. If we start taking away privileges ahead of court verdicts, like withholding YouTube privileges or “canceling” someone’s career, we risk harming an innocent person.

So there’s no easy way to handle these situations, and as a culture, we’re going to do it messily.

But here’s what we’re learning. When you’re dealing with people, especially men, with the kind of power of Russell Brand or Jeffrey Epstein or Keith Raniere or Harvey Weinstein, the long arm of justice is slow. It typically starts with scared victims only telling close friends they can trust, and then the rumor mill starts. Then someone gets empowered enough to report their story to an investigative journalist, who decides to look into the rumors. This often takes YEARS, while perpetrators often keep perpetrating.

Getting enough brave whistleblowing victims to come on the record and tell their stories when they’re terrified to do so and often will have their lives ruined for doing so is no small task. Then to get the legal department to sign off on the investigative report (because it’s not illegal to report the truth, but if you get it wrong, you can be sued for defamation) takes years sometimes.

Then when the story finally breaks and a powerful figure is called out publicly, this puts pressure on law enforcement to do something. There’s power in numbers. It should be enough if one victim goes to the police, but time and again, individual victims get silenced, shamed, attacked, humiliated, ignored, or denied their reality. When victims come together, and investigative journalists have their backs, justice becomes more likely in these cases that are famously hard to prove or bring to justice.

When this happens, of course, there may be consequences. The accused public figure might lose their job or their privileges on social media or their partner or some fans. That’s why not abusing your power is crucial if you want to keep your power, privilege, career, and public status- because you have a lot to lose when you’re in the public eye.

Many people are not going to wait until a court verdict to decide whether they want to do business with someone who has been accused of multiple counts of sexual assault and rape. And that’s understandable, because we need to protect our business reputations and our clients, and we may not want the drama of inviting an accused rapist who hasn’t gone to trial yet to speak at a conference we’re hosting. Fair enough.

Now I understand that this means that the public figure might feel scapegoated or victimized unfairly. They feel persecuted before a police report has even been filed, much less before a jury of their peers has made a verdict.

But as a public figure, I can say that one of the risks you take if you choose to be public is that all your dirty laundry might become public too. And that might be embarrassing and humiliating and shame-inducing, and that royally sucks.

But this is typically how justice plays out in these cases. I don’t have a solution for how to handle this more fairly, but I do think we need to side with the brave whistleblowing victims first, and assume they’re probably telling the truth, since studies have shown that only 2–8% of people who claim to be victims turn out to be lying.

Then it’s fair to wait until after a trial to decide whether someone is innocent or guilty. But that doesn’t mean we have to wait to take away some of the privileges of being a public figure. If we don’t, we potentially put more victims at risk, as likely happened when Oprah promoted a predator who, as it turns out, really was raping many, many women.

Holding someone accountable for crimes and abuses is a messy process- and there are many powerful people who would like to make sure we don’t hold narcissists accountable. There are also many “spiritual white women” like Danielle LaPorte, who I used to consider a colleague and peer, who spout so much spiritual bypassing rhetoric that it’s boggling to anyone with a conscience for social justice.

In her “Equinox Sermon Jam” on Instagram 2 days ago, Danielle LaPorte, who has been publicly defending her buddy Russell Brand, said this:

“We need to forgive all the oppression, repression, polarization and arguments that have gone on in the last few years, and just let it dissolve so we can move on, be present, the energy of the heart, clearly hearing that higher guidance can happen for us. And so that- because we’re not doing this from a place of naivete, we’re doing it from a place of discernment- and so that we can face and embrace and think clearly with what’s coming…We better forgive everything that happened yesterday, three years ago, etc. Just pour love on it, everybody a bozo on the bus. Everybody was doing the best they could at the time, some people highly in their shadow, some people embracing the light, some people in prayer, some people not…you’ve got to let it go.

What’s gone down, whether it’s in your childhood or the last three years or last night, cannot be part of your identity. You have to identify as a child of God, as Buddha nature, as Christ consciousness…however you roll, as the light, so you can keep going…

How do you tolerate or forgive the unforgivable?… Everything is forgivable- Biblical teaching, the teaching of Jesus Christ, you forgive seventy times seven, over and over again. I have spoken to women who have been violently assaulted, unspeakably assaulted…things unimaginable, torturous things, they were able to forgive, set themselves free, set the experience free, set the perpetrator free. They pave the way for us to just consider forgiving the unforgivable… Tolerance is better than intolerance, but then there’s acceptance. It happened. I don’t resist that it happened. It happened. I face that it happened. Then you can move into forgiveness. And if you can’t even conceive of forgiving, you just need to touch that place within your own vast heart…that wants to forgive… Then as the Course In Miracles teaches, the Holy Spirit comes in. You just open the door.”

Now if you’re one of Russell Brand’s whistleblowing victims, how does it feel to have yet another “spiritual white woman” betraying you when you’ve been brave enough to come forward and pray for justice? If you’re the mother of some cop who has not yet been held accountable in a court of law for murdering yet another innocent Black teenager, how does this feel? If you’re an Indigenous American or the ancestor of a slave in the US- and your own government has not even admitted the crimes committed against your people, much less tried to participate in restorative justice, how can you do anything but get angry at spiritual white women who spew such nonsense?

If your own rapist or child abuser has never even confessed to the crime, much less expressed remorse, been held accountable, or tried to make amends, how does this land? How can you heal? If white women, who are our own marginalized group, cannot even have empathy for those with even fewer privileges than we have, if we cannot side with the victims instead of spouting off about forgiving the perpetrators who won’t even admit what they’ve done, how can we call ourselves “spiritual?” It literally doesn’t make any sense.

All I hear when I hear “spiritual white women” like her saying things like this is little child parts inside saying “Can’t everyone stop fighting? Won’t everyone just forgive so we can have peace and get along right now?” If that’s the case, I have compassion for that. But the result of that sensitivity to conflict is that blending with child parts that hate conflict can cause us to betray the oppressed and victimized people who most need our support.

If our spirituality cannot include the necessary conflict and confrontation of justice such that we hold narcissistic power abusers accountable, if justice doesn’t matter because we’re “soooo spiritual,” how can we reconcile the betrayal of privileged, powerful “spiritual white women” turning their backs on those who deserve justice?

This is part of the topic of the book me and my partner Jeffrey Rediger are working on now- about how spiritual bypassing, fawning narcissists instead of holding them accountable, betraying victims by expecting peace and forgiveness without justice, and failing to stand up for social justice can make you sick as an individual and contribute to upholding a sick society. We’ll be previewing some of this content- about the link between abuses of power and mental and physical health in our upcoming Zoom workshop The Mysteries of Spontaneous Healing October 7–8.

LEARN MORE AND REGISTER HERE

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Lissa Rankin, MD

Lissa Rankin, MD, New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine, The Fear Cure, and The Anatomy of a Calling.