November 17, 2017
Sexual Harassment and Abuse: The Lid Has Been Torn Off
The last few months have brought a unsettling problem back into the spotlight: sexual harassment and abuse charges against several powerful and well-known men. From politics to entertainment, religion to business, these lurid stories of women, and some men, being victims of unwelcome, inappropriate, and illegal sexual advancements are being reported with stunning regularity.
The Me Too hashtag on Twitter shows almost 2 million uses in just the last month. Researchers say that an overwhelming majority of women, and a surprisingly high percentage of men, have been sexually harassed at some point in their lives.
Until this all came to the foreground, I am afraid I was blissfully unaware of the size of the problem. I know that many men in positions of authority use sex as a tool of power or intimidation. Reports of affairs and cheating are depressingly common.
Yet, the current list of people affected along with the social and personal costs of these crimes is beyond anything I knew existed. I should have been more aware. I raised two daughters. I had the normal dad concerns about teenage boys and hormones. I also knew that at least one of my daughters and my wife had suffered through periods of sexual harassment at school and work.
But, until the news headlines and #MeToo campaign made this a topic of conversation, it wasn't a part of their past I thought about. Now, they tell me every female they know suffered some of the same sexual indignities.
I was shocked at how close to home these stories can strike. This isn't just a Hollywood or Washington issue. I became angry at the people who do this every day and get away with it until someone has the courage to risk everything by saying, "Enough."
I do caution myself that an accusation isn't always a fact. Today, just the suggestion of a sexual misdeed can end a career or a life's reputation. So, care must be taken that someone doesn't use these charges as a weapon. However, when multiple people report similar behavior or details are specific, there comes a feeling that behind the smoke is a nasty fire. To simply dismiss the charges as old news or fake is not acceptable.
Frankly, as a male, I hesitated even writing about this topic. I am aware that the emotional and physical scars on the victims are real and long-lasting. The mix of feelings these assaults trigger are more complicated than I could ever understand.
But, as a human being, regardless of my sex, I can be appalled at the affront to personal dignity and sense of self that these events cause. To stay quiet, even if I say something wrong, seems even worse.