Don't ask. Simply do not ask this question. It implies that women are responsible for their own abuse and harassment. It hints at disbelief and doubt of the woman. It invites her onto a platform on which she has to explain and justify that she was indeed sexually abused. Its a cop-out, a fall back position that abusive men use as a statement of defence. They say: "If the stories are true, why did the woman take so long to come forward".
I want to gag.
The question to ask is: Why did this powerful positioned man feel entitled to non consensually rub against her, make sexual comments to her, stick his dick inside her mouth, anus or vagina? What makes a man do this harmful stuff to women? And don't go into old stereotypical responses of 'she provoked him', 'led him on', 'wore a sexy outfit', 'had sex with him a week ago'. I think that this explosion of allegations against powerful men in politics, entertainment and journalism has put to bed these simplistic rationalisations.
A conspiracy of silence surrounds these men. This conspiracy is made up of men... and some women. These men are lawyers, body guards, employees and peers, who conspire to provide women to the boss, who turn a blind eye. These men are guilty of perpetration by aiding and abetting the Boss.
I am sick to my stomach.
The entire patriarchal system protects and enables these men. There is tacit approval. Money and power enables and entitles. Secret settlements are arranged as a means of resolving allegations of sexual misconduct. Seriously... you think that a woman's trauma can be bought off without enormous consequences to her now and in the future?
Let's pretend that you are a woman who has been sexually harassed and you decide to tell someone. Of course this is a deeply personal choice -- if you decide not to tell that too is your right.
Immediately you are dismissed as "emotional" and "irrational". Ha! If anything, once you recover from the immediate trauma, you get real rational, sober in your shock, and weigh up the cost-to-benefit ratio. It works something like this: If I tell, I'll be shamed. I'll be punished and I won't be believed.
You're told: "Maybe you misunderstood the situation/him. Are you sure?" or "He's just like that" or "Don't make such a big deal out of it". Benefits to telling? Not many. You don't expect to be supported by police or the judicial system. A kind of gaslighting occurs. You are made to question your own reality and question your own memories. It feels safer, more emotionally economical and thus easier to just move on. But the feelings don't move on. They stay for years and forever.
You are made to feel shamed for not fighting hard enough. You may very well be threatened into silence and even punished for speaking out.
Threats include: "I will crush you... I will drag you and your family through the mud". Then, of course, there are the potential legal and financial consequences of speaking out. You fear loosing your career, reputation and not having money to support yourself and your family. In a moment of confusion and sheer terror, you sign a nondisclosure agreement and settlement. You're legally gagged. And then there are private investigators who are paid handsomely to dig up any dirt against you. They seek to slut shame you.
AbInBev has just launched a campaign #NoExcuse. The holistic approach is aimed at driving awareness, creating conversations and providing tools for people to take positive action as a means of driving a change. #NoExcuse indicates there is no excuse for men to perpetrate any form of violence and no excuse for people to stand by and do nothing while others abuse.
They want men to drink more responsibly as violence against women and alcohol go hand in hand. Personally I would have preferred a more direct campaign directed at (drinking) men: #StopAbusing.
Enough pussy footing around. Just let's tell men to stop abusing women and children.
I ask you to weigh in: Suggest a campaign that talks to men, that will capture the attention of men, that will bring changed attitudes and behaviour. Ask these difficult questions:
- Do you believe a woman when she says she was sexually abused?
- What stops you believing a woman when she does tell that she was sexually harassed?
- With the current explosion of allegations, are you as a man afraid that a woman from your past may accuse you of sexual harassment?
- Are you questioning the possibility that you may have abused/harassed a woman?
- As a woman how has this explosion of allegations affected you, if at all?
Keep the conversation going with me. Contact me.