Sadly, an Update on Kyle Payne

Most people reading this probably won’t remember the name Kyle Payne. His story broke right around the time I started working with SAFER in the summer of 2008, and it stuck with me over the past couple of years. For the best background, I would check out the series of posts that Cara did over at The Curvature, but the brief history is that Payne was an RA (resident advisor) at Buena Vista University in Iowa, who was charged with sexually assaulting an unconscious student and taking naked photographs of her. He pled guilty to the photographing, but not the assault, and was sentenced to 6 months in county jail.

The kicker is that Payne was also a sexual assault advocate. His blog is now set to private, but he used to describe himself there as follows:

Kyle is a social justice educator, writer, and activist. Much of his work is concerned with putting a stop to violence against women. For years Kyle has served as an advocate for survivors of sexual violence and other forms of abuse, in addition to promoting what he calls “a more just and life-affirming culture of sexuality” through activism and education. As a researcher, Kyle has studied the feminist anti-pornography movement and is particularly interested in men’s roles in confronting pornography and the rape culture. In addition to his pro-feminist work, he is involved with anti-racist, free speech, peace, and anti-globalization movements.

As repugnant as this description was in 2008, it gets worse this week as a commenter pointed us to this August 20, 2010 story about how Payne has been arrested again, this time for possession of child pornography:

After Payne told a counselor that he was continuing to use pornography, a police officer and two parole officers went to his apartment in Sioux City August 12 to examine his computer. His parole agreement required that Payne submit to such searches.

They found over 200 animated images of child pornography on the machine, and when questioned, Payne reportedly admitted that they might recover photographic images of actual child sex acts from his hard drive. Officers found software intended to “scrub” computer files to prevent them from being discovered. Payne had reportedly also downloaded child pornography onto his BVU student drive prior to his initial arrest.

It’s bizarre that this story got sent to us today—as we’ve been prepping some resources on housing rights for suvivors, I was just googling the original Payne story YESTERDAY to make a point about how schools need to have protocol for when a perpetrator of sexual violence is a member of the housing/res life staff. Re-reading all of the original posts about him, including the one written here by Ashley, I was again filled with rage at the hypocrisy (which honestly doesn’t seem like a strong enough word) of this man, claiming to be a supporter of women who suffer at the hands of men just like him. And tonight I am angry still, but I am also just deeply saddened by the fact that this story continues; that whatever therapy this man was going through wasn’t enough. So much of what I believe in—my social justice values, you might say—hinges on transformation, learning, redeeming oneself…and then people like this make me second guess the possibility of that at all.

I want to end this by echoing Ashley from two years ago, because it’s still really, really relevant:

This case is an excellent example of one of the myriad reasons a college should make the investment in full-time trained sexual assault advocates. They think that’s too expensive? How much will it cost when the school gets sued because some self-styled student “advocate” sexually assaults the person they’re counseling? How about the lost tuition from students too traumatized to continue with their schooling? The fallout from the suicide that happens when the counseling center is closed?

Seriously, you have three baseball coaches and you can’t hire one person to deal with sexual assault on campus?

    2 thoughts on “Sadly, an Update on Kyle Payne

    1. This is not atypical. In several instances the people most vocally opposed to a behavior turn out to regularly engage in it. There was a recent case of woman who regularly advocated on behalf of abused children using her position to rape a boy she was suppose to care for. There is a psychological term for this kind of behavior, but I cannot recall it. I suspect that quite a few of the women and men who adamantly oppose sexual violence actually engage it.