Sexual assault: culturally secret bullying

Observations on the human condition.The past few weeks of television coverage of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual proclivities likely will not do much to ameliorate the situation. It’s not like we have not been discussing how poorly some men treat women.

We love to see rich folks get their come-uppance. Weinstein has paid out millions of dollars to ensure his victims’ silence. We have watched with interest every time Bill Cosby’s name has crossed our electronic screen; he, too has “settled,” paying an accuser to forget anything happened. Bill O’Reilly has several times “settled” with accusers — the latest settlement was for $32 million — and then denied that anything happened. And multiple times each week — sometimes it seems almost daily — our local newspaper carries the story of someone who has abused women or children, or both. Mostly those passing through Adams County courts on their way the front page are men. Mostly, they don’t have the money of a Bill Cosby, or a Bill O’Reilly, or a Harvey Weinstein with which to pay off an accuser.

The good news is we’re talking about it, sort of. A multitude of women have found the impetus to “go pubic.”

Somebody I knew in a previous life in another state sexually assaulted a teenage girl. When my editor got the story, her response was, “She probably seduced him.”

The girl was 13, the man 40-something. At the very least, he – and the editor – should have known better. The girl did not seduce the man. He bore the responsibility. He did what he did, and had his day in court and the local newspaper. But in the mind of a newspaper editor, and the collective mind of a significant portion of the paper’s audience, she asked for it.

That was a few decades ago, but not much has changed. Back then, we laughed when Bill Cosby joked about using Spanish Fly to excite girls at a teen dance. For at least 30 years, Harvey Weinstein, if we are to believe his accusers, was supplied with wannabe starlets. And now, if one listens, one can easily hear people saying they must have asked for it. How, too many of us ask, could they go to his room or office and not know what he would want in return for what they wanted.

A wife of my acquaintance was raised to believe “it’s not rape if we’re married.” Another told me her husband owned her body and could decided what she wore, where she went, and what she could do when she got there.

Last November, We The People elected a president who bragged about doing to women what, had he done it to one of our sons or daughters, would have earned him a serious beat-down — or at least a walk through an Adams County courtroom on his way to the front page of the local newspaper.

For the most part, women still are afraid – or, worse, embarrassed – to report being the victim of a sexual assault. (Going public is even more fearful and embarrassing for men.) With any other crime, the accused gets to face the accuser, but when it’s a sex crime, the rule changes – furthering the myth that women cannot protect themselves, are somehow still the “weaker sex.” They should be encouraged to “go public.”

I submit there will be fewer bullies when the community writ large decides bullying will not be tolerated. It’s good that rich and famous women are telling of their experiences with rich and famous men violators. It’s time we lifted the veil for the rest of us.

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