Anonymous Letter Names Coconut Editor in Sexual Abuse Scandal

After an anonymous letter identified Bruce Covey as one of several men accused of sexual harrassment/abuse allegations surfaced on the web, many women poets and editors have come forward in support and defense of the Coconut editor.

The letter, which is said to have been found in a restroom at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference in Minneapolis earlier this month, was made public onĀ Quaint Magazine: A women’s quarterly literary magazineĀ on Friday. Responses on social media platforms, particularly Facebook and Twitter, have been mixed and volatile. Covey, whose name had never before appeared on such lists unlike Tao Lin, Stephen Tully Dierks, Gregory Sherl, Janey Smith, Zach Houston, and Kevin Sampsell, issued a public response in which he self-identifies as a rape survivor and a dedicated supporter of victims’ rights. In his response, he writes:

As a white man, I’ve had many privileges. My family was middle-class. I have Asperger’s and suffer from chronic major depression and anxiety. But despite these challenges, I recognize that I have privilege. I have tried to use that privilege to support rather than oppress. When I was a child, I was raped, and when I reported that rape, no one believed me. I know what it means for victims to feel unheard and to fear being traumatized again by speaking out.

Covey has decided to suspend Coconut operations, leaving forthcoming titles and contests in limbo. According to his open letter, he feels this a necessary step to ensure the safety of his family, particularly that of his daughters, about whom Covey has received “veiled threats.”

Many have spoken in defense of Covey, sparking intense debate regarding silencing and victim-blaming. One of the most vocal on behalf of Covey has been Reb Livingston. On her blog, she writes:

Well, I do see a lot of victim blaming and unsafe space creating. I see a rape survivor being publicly attacked and demonized by some rather self-righteous assholes who don’t strike me as having much interest in protecting sexual abuse survivors.

That’s right invisibles, anonymouses and other brave social media warriors, you have become the monsters you claim to be fighting against. You created an unsafe space for a rape survivor and his family. How many other sexual abuse survivors were triggered these past couple weeks over this shit show? How much easier did you just make it for people who don’t want to believe actual rape victims by pursuing these corrupt tactics? Answer: Quite a bit.

Meanwhile, many have hypothesized about the identity of those who composed the original letter, supposedly distributed at AWP, accusing Covey of undefined acts of sexual harassment and abuse. The letter did not attach specific allegations to specific names, and many have pointed to this lack of specificity as particularly unfair to Covey. However, others have argued that the lack of specificity reflects an effort to protect the anonymity of survivors who could be identified based on the naming of specific acts.