(Photo credit to Trinity Kubassic)
I have never been prouder of my gender than I have as I have witnessed the brave women who have come forward in recent weeks. Women are finally speaking out about sexual harassment that they have suffered in silence for years. This behavior has been going on for years but this is our watershed moment now.
At last, women are uniting to tell their truths—the stories they have kept hidden, some for many years—holding in all the shame, embarrassment, and humiliation for years while having to continue working for someone who has such power over them and such little respect for their value.
Along with the pride and relief I have seen in this awakening, I am also been disturbed that some have turned this issue of slimy male behavior into a political issue: it’s not. This is a human issue.
If we cannot agree on that, what hope to do we have?
Hearing of the support the women have received by most people in our society has heartened me while the reactions of others have sickened me. Some have suggested that the women are lying to “bring a good man down” or worse, “If she was really sexually harassed/assaulted then she would have spoken up years ago.”
Let me tackle both of these myths.
First, it is incredibly difficult to come forward with accusations such as this, which is why so many women have been hesitant to come forward and have remained in the shadows for years. Too often, the victim is treated worse than the perpetrator as she is slut shamed, questioned about her attire and her behavior. As long as men mostly run the CJ system, there will always be that “she asked for it” tendency, although I do think this is improving.
The second myth makes my blood boil. Women are terrified others will point their fingers and view them as ‘sluts,’ ‘whores,’ or other derogatory terms.
Nevertheless, we have taken a huge leap in the past few weeks and we must not let this moment slip away. Hang on to your anger and remember it. If you are sexually harassed or assaulted, come forward.
One of my huge regrets is not doing enough to protect future women from a man who sexually harassed me. I went to his supervisor, who told me I had no proof of anything. The supervisor’s reaction devastated me—his utter ambivalence about what one of his employees had put me through meant nothing to him. Better to save the school from scandal. It was particularly egregious because the supervisor knew I was a survivor of sexual abuse. I am sometimes haunted when I think that by not speaking up, I may have put other women at risk for experiencing the same as I did. I so wish I had done more.
Still, onward and upward. But I hope none of you will have the regret that I do. So, let’s really work together. Women must stand together, support each other, and believe one another. Our gender benefits from unity.