Does anyone else think this current atmosphere of sexual harassment is totally out of control?
There are so many facets to these daily revelations of men taking advantage in numerous ways of young men and women. I am not a naive human, but I am really surprised to see these stories dominate the media and to learn how prevalent these sexual encounters have become. And with each comes a wave of anger, divisiveness, and “righteous” indignation. These revelations have shined a light on a heretofore dark secret world of debauchery alive for decades. “We are better in America,” is what we so often say about bad things that happen in other nations. But this environment of harassment says otherwise.
There is some good in not only having this exposed with all its variations, but so much exposed so quickly has awakened the U.S. to it as a major problem. We can show the world just how much better we are “IF” we solve this problem. And that’s going to be a tough one. Let’s take a look.
Men will be Men. I’ve heard that all my life. In reality, that typically means some man has done something wrong and someone else is making an excuse for him. But there’s truth in that statement: men are biologically, emotionally, and psychologically to attracted to others sexually. And in living everyday life, sometimes one of those characteristics takes control of a guy. Unfortunately when that happens, often young men and women are the objects of that obsession.
We could spend time here listing all of the untoward sexual encounters among famous people from the past along with the current ones. But we all know it has gone on for many years and that no economic or social class has been exempt. It affects every part of American culture. With such universal media coverage of every thing in our lives, nothing escapes exposure. We now understand the Scripture that says, “Be sure your sins will find you out.”
Why Hasn’t This Been Stopped?
There are probably several possible answers — all of which are probably true. One answer is that most often the perpetrators are older than the victims and usually hold some position of authority in the victims’ lives: teacher, employer or manager, older neighbor, and sometimes even a parent or other senior family member. The intimidation factor goes a long way in securing the silence of victims.
Another answer is the culture of acceptance of such acts. We have all heard actual stories of mothers (who often have been abused themselves) who although hating watching their spouses abuse their children simply turn away choosing to ignore the attacks. Whether it is for personal fear or some warped sense of responsibility for a child to please an older family member in this way, there is simply no good explanation or excuse for allowing those to happen.
In the case of politics, it appears that in Washington D.C. a culture of sexual harassment has been thriving in the highly charged atmosphere in which some of the most powerful people in the World live and work. We now have learned that for some time, the House of Representatives has maintained a “Sexual Harassment Slush Fund” comprised of taxpayer dollars. It is used specifically to payoff interns, pages, and some junior staff members who have been sexually abused or harassed by their bosses and/or other House members and senior staffers. We do not yet have any of the details of the fund, dollar amounts , who has used it, or how it has been specifically used, but media calls for those details are ringing out. Do not be surprised for a Freedom of Information Act court order to obtain the House release of that information during the holidays. Obviously, members of Congress probably are not going to take the lead on stopping the longstanding practices involving sexual impropriety and abuses among their ranks.
Fact or Fiction
Here’s the 900 pound gorilla in this room: Lady Liberty. Problem is, the #1 thing that makes America the greatest nation in human history is the fact that the government does not impose its thoughts, ideas, rights, and wrongs on U.S. citizens. Our “Bible” is the Constitution. While the landmark separation of how government treats its citizens in right and wrong disputes — at least in criminal cases — is “innocent until proven guilty.” We each have the “presumption of innocence.” No, that legally does not apply to civil matters. But its reality reaches far into Americans’ discernment of rights and wrongs.
The dilemma is this: how can an absolute answer be found in most of these cases when evidence that can prove or disprove sexual harassment and abuse allegations has been buried sometimes for decades? Should we in the cases of these most often hidden transgressions decide based on a default position of guilt or should the accused be “innocent until proven guilty?” And who would make that determination? Lady Liberty — long the symbol of American fairness in such determinations — wears a blindfold while holding a scale. When if ever is it right for someone — anyone — to with a finger change the balance between guilt and innocence?
How Can Sexual Harassment be Stopped?
It MUST be stopped. No doubt there is no easy answer, but we must find one. Here are my thoughts:
This “environment” that has actually fostered these acts and their proliferation in numbers throughout all of America was created by Americans. And the acceptance of it as simply a part of life in the USA has become almost universal. In doing so, thousands if not millions of young men and women have been at least direly and permanently impacted by these abuses, and some scarred irreparably for life. Just as is the case with our children and even adults in our lives, recognizing there IS a real problem does not fix the problem. But seeing the problem as a problem is necessary to allow change. But it’s just a start.
For any changes to be created and implemented, the mental and emotional state of the Nation that even allows sexual abuse must be obliterated. That is a tall order. At least an entire generation of this unacceptable behavior must make a 180 degree change. Personally, I think that is unlikely. So what’s an alternative?
We did not get here quickly. It has taken generations of compromise, benign acceptance, both in a vacuum of ignoring these practices to get us to this moment in history. We cannot get it right overnight. And there will be a price to pay.
Fortunately in this electronic, hi-tech world of satellite and internet instantaneous information worldwide distribution, we now have a tool that can make time fly. With the right leadership and developed plan combined with a mass American will to rid our world of sexual abuses of any kind, we can see it happen in the during the next decade.
Unfortunately though, in that process, there will be casualties. How so? We are caught in a catch-22. We have no way of knowing how many and who have already been victimized by sexual wrongdoing at the hands of others. While the process of ridding the nation of all the elements of this, some of these people will necessarily become sacrificial lambs. IF as we do in criminal law, we adopt for these cases “innocent until proven guilty,” those that have already been abused without hard proof of the abuses will not see a good conclusion for their stories. And some of their abusers without proof of their wrongdoing will walk free. I see no other way to quickly change a socially embedded process that for so long has been allowed. It’s a process, it will be hard, and it will take time.
Two things to note:
- Americans from every socioeconomic group, political class, race, religion, and ethnicity, must agree not only is sexual abuse and harassment of every kind wrong, but that we must make a change and stop it to eliminate the horror and permanent damage they cause. And these same Americans must determine to pool solution ideas together and implement laws to support the stopping sexual harassment;
- Every American adult must subscribe to this process just as we have chosen to teach our children to not talk to strangers, and never get in a car with someone without parental consent. And every American adult MUST get involved in this process and take action as agreed to in “The Plan” to protect American youth of any age.
What happens if we don’t do this? Exactly what has apparently been happening for centuries: young children and young adults will be stalked and abused by sexual predators just as they have been for so long.
Is that the heritage we want to leave for the next generation?