Last week, in response to the news that multiple female employees of Fox News had accused Roger Ailes of sexual harassment, Donald Trump told USA Today that if his daughter Ivanka were sexually harassed at work, she would “find another career or another company.” His son Eric then commented that Ivanka is “strong” and “powerful” and wouldn’t “allow herself” to be sexually harassed. These statements are both preposterous and offensive.
As with all gender-based forms of abuse, sexual harassment can happen to anyone. It does not matter if you are strong or powerful, what your gender or sexual orientation is, or what you look like or how you dress. It is never the victim’s fault. Sexual harassment is against the law in the workplace and in schools.
Comments like those from Donald Trump and Eric Trump place all of the blame and burden of sexual harassment onto the victims’ shoulders. Even when talking about their own family member, neither man said that the harasser would be in the wrong — they focused instead on what the potential victim should do.
Let us be perfectly clear: the only person to blame and the only person who should face negative consequences for sexual harassment is the harasser. Nobody should have to quit their job or change careers because of the illegal actions of another person. Nobody should feel unsafe in their work or school because someone else is bullying or coercing them in a sexual manner. Nobody “allows” themselves to be sexually harassed. These type of statements help to create a culture that allows sexual harassment to flourish, and that prevents victims from coming forward.
When it comes to sexual harassment and any other gender-based abuse or violence, far too many people focus exclusively on what the victim should have done or should be doing. Enough. It’s time to hold the perpetrators accountable for their own actions, and to stop blaming the victims. Whether it’s sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence or any other crime, the only person at fault is the abuser.
If we want to change our culture, we have to take a stand against all forms of victim blaming. You can start doing this in your own life by challenging those who would blame victims, or by speaking out about candidates, celebrities or anyone else who makes statements like these. You can also get involved in the fight for social transformation right here in Westmoreland County, by joining our Men As Allies or Future Advocates of Blackburn groups, donating to our organization, or volunteering. Through individual dedication and action, we can make a major difference in our community and our country.