The Wave of Sexual Harassment
I've worked with so many women over the years who have been sexually harassed and sexually assaulted. I know how deep the problem runs, and how very common it is in the lives of women. In fact, I've many times over the years said that if at 2PM Eastern time tomorrow, every woman in the country who has experienced sexual abuse stood up and announced it, it would be impossible to minimize and ignore the true magnitude of the problem any longer.
So when we saw the #MeToo campaign begin, I wasn't at all surprised by the number of women acknowledging victimization. Unfortunately, lots of people clearly WERE surprised. There was a pretty prompt backlash of people claiming women were just "jumping on the bandwagon", as though sexual victimization is somehow a glamourous goal that we all aspire to. I think when people starting seeing the real numbers of real women talking about real abuse, it shook them to no longer be able to pretend "that stuff just doesn't happen that often". It shook them to not be able to live in denial because we when acknowledge the problem, then we have to DO something about it.
Especially now that so many famous, powerful, often well-liked men are being accused of inappropriate behavior, harassment, abuse, and assault. Lots of them weren't really all that surprising, in my opinion. It's just not that unusual for a man in power to eventually have it go to his head, to consider himself entitled to whatever he wants, including women.
But I admit it disappointed me beyond measure to see Louis C.K. join the ranks, and today the allegations around Al Franken really crushed me. Both had been so vocal about women's rights, and it felt like a particular betrayal. Both men admitted to the behavior of which they were accused, and both men apologized. Franken's apology, especially, was everything we want to see an apology be. It doesn't at all excuse the behavior or absolve him from consequences, but a genuine apology can go a long way toward helping a victim heal.
It was admittedly easy for me to call for consequences when it's the likes of someone like Roy Moore, who is my complete political opposite and who, I feel, has engaged in so many other egregious actions on top of the sexual harassment and sexual assault. But when it has become men that I've historically liked and admired, I understand having that reaction of "Oh, surely not!" But this is what we need to do if we're serious about ending violence against women. It's vital that we set a standard of acceptable behavior, and that we demand everyone to adhere to that acceptable behavior or face consequences.
We need to hold men accountable for it when they abuse their power, and we need to believe women when they disclose their experiences. Even when it would be easier for us to look the other way, to pretend it's just not that big of a deal. We're at a point in history right now where we can really start creating positive change, so let's not drop the ball!