Over the past several weeks, women and men alike have come forward to speak out against powerful men who have sexually abused and harassed them. From Senate candidate Roy Moore to comedian Louis C.K. to actors George Takei, Richard Dreyfuss and Gary Goddard to director Brett Ratner, an ever-growing number of men have been accused of misconduct, abuse and assault. It seems as though this is the beginning of a movement of truth and accountability.
While some of the accused have lashed out, calling their victims liars or questioning their motives, others have remained largely silent, or in the case of Louis C.K., issued a statement admitting their abuse. While Louis C.K.’s statement was not a true apology, it did represent a change in how these types of allegations have been handled. For years, the strategy of many abusers has been to deny, intimidate and harass victims to prevent any stories of abuse from coming to light. In fact, Harvey Weinstein went so far as to hire ex-Mossad agents to track journalists and actresses. The fact that at least some abusers are now admitting what they have done shows that progress has been made. That this abuse continues to occur shows that much work remains to be done.
We have an opportunity at this moment to truly change our culture. Right now, the topics of sexual assault, sexual harassment and consent are at the forefront of our national conversation. And in that conversation, we’re seeing a change that we’ve been working towards for many years: rather than shaming victims, the majority of our society is believing them. This is vital. We can carry this momentum forward to make this a lasting change. Through open and honest conversations, we can call out the abuse of power that is at the core of many of these incidents. We can teach boys to respect girls as equals, rather than to view them as objects. We can break down much of the toxic masculinity that has allowed this rape culture to flourish, and build up a culture where women and men have healthy relationships based on mutual respect and equality. We can also call on men to stop being complicit in sexual harassment and abuse, and ask them to take a stand when they hear or see unacceptable language or behavior. Many of the instances of abuse that have now been brought to light were open secrets for years; had more “good guys” used their power to stop it, many women and men would not have been victimized.
We are at a critical juncture in our society. We have reached a moment of truth, when we can choose to blaze a new path forward. Let us honor the courage of all victims, and work together to change society, and end sexual harassment and assault for all Americans.