We can end sexual assault
Harvey Weinstein has changed everything. Since the story broke about how heinous behavior with Hollywood’s stars, there has been a growing movement to finally demand a crackdown on sexual assault and sexual harassment. Already, the issue is spreading. Other major media figures are getting called out and started to get the disdain and punishments they deserved. Most recently, the journalist Mark Halperin was let go at his position because of allegations of his misbehavior. This is an excellent start, we as individuals and as a culture need to go further.
For many in this country, these stories are not shocking. Women in the workplace already knew how many men misbehaved. Whether it was inappropriate touching, suggestions, or harassment, or something even worse, most women have experienced some version of this behavior. I say most because statistics suggest 52% of women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
Women are not the only ones who were aware of this problem. Lawyers who specialize in work-related issues have all heard the horror stories and had to deal with the difficulties of proving a case against such men.
It isn’t just the lawyers either. Many male coworkers have been aware to some extent what is going on. Returning to the Weinstein case, Quentin Tarantino is an excellent example. He has come out and apologized for not taking the allegations he hears second- or third-hand more seriously. He said he knew on some level something was going on but he just didn’t want to do anything about it. He is not alone. Many men are aware on some level that something inappropriate is taking place in their offices, in their workplaces, on the subway, and on the street. But they, like many others, have chosen the easier path of ignoring the issue and being in denial.
It seems when the point is really examined, that everyone on some level was aware this was happening throughout our society, but it is only now that anyone has decided to do something about it.
We must not complain that it’s taken long enough. Instead, we should use the energy created by the revulsion of the Weinstein case and push forward to make a proactive change in the culture. The continuing unmasking of sexual predators is a great start, but other things must go along with it.
We should push for legislation to make it easier for women (or men, we must not forget this isn’t exclusively a woman’s problem) to come forward and report on issues of sexual assault or sexual harassment. The great protections people have, the more these cases will come to light.
We have to also work to keep publicizing these stories and demanding action. So far, the story has been one of allegation, denial, public upset, firing and shunning of the guilty person. We need that crucial third step, otherwise, we could return to the time when women stayed silent because they were sure nothing would change for their assaulter, but their own careers would be in jeopardy.
Despite the horrors of these stories, it is important we realize we are at the beginning of a great moment. We can stop sexual harassment in the workplace, we have to stay focused.