A key piece is missing from the national discussion about sexual harassment.
The media’s spotlight on this terrible epidemic is welcome news for females everywhere, as the culture of silence has finally been dealt a severe blow. But, what about the men?
I’m not referring to the lowlifes that victimize women—men that view us as objects to be groped, manhandled, or as the punch line in a dirty joke.
I’m talking about the men who have witnessed this harassment or know it’s happened, but cowardly choose to stay silent.
After Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual assaults made prime-time news (and new allegations are still emerging), Ben Affleck and Matt Damon made statements condemning his actions. But according to news reports, both actors had prior knowledge of the harassment that happened to their colleague, and Affleck’s then-girlfriend, Gwyneth Paltrow.
Where was their moral conviction when they first heard the allegations? Where was Damon’s cry for justice decades earlier when this alleged abuse first took place?
Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino, as well many others, also admitted to having foreknowledge of Weinstein’s lewd behavior toward many women. Tarantino said, “I knew enough to do more than I did.”
Although his lack of action at the time of the alleged abuse is saddening, this honest confession should be a lesson for men everywhere: If you know of abuse, you have an obligation to speak out.
Turning a blind eye and ignoring the wrongdoing means you’re also ignoring the victim and allowing this cycle of abuse to continue. Your silence is speaking volumes. It sends a message to women that you are complicit, and even condoning the exploitation.
How many women could have been spared Weinstein’s misconduct had men with this knowledge simply done the right thing and called him out early on?
Had witnesses put aside any personal ramifications and acted, this Hollywood culture of abuse could have been weakened before it had time to claim countless other victims and ruin many lives.
Not to mention that creeps like this would hopefully have been exposed sooner rather than later, preventing them from creating even more victims.
But it’s not just Los Angeles that’s a breeding ground for this evil. The #MeToo movement has taught us many things, including that sexual harassment victims are in our very own backyard.
Many of our mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, friends, and grandmothers have been carrying the burden of this abuse for some time now, too ashamed to admit they too have been victimized.
Take the workplace, for example. According to a report on sexual harassment in the office, it has been estimated that a whopping 75 percent of harassment incidents go unreported due to fear of retaliation. This is unacceptable.
Men, many of you have been silent for far too long. It’s time to speak up and do what’s right.
This starts with no tolerance of “locker room” talk. It means not laughing at the sexual joke that pokes fun at a female colleague, and it means speaking out and opposing wrongdoing and inappropriate sexual behavior when it has been witnessed.
Even if you’re a stranger to the victim and abuser, by witnessing these acts you have an ethical responsibility to call the abuse out and, if applicable, notify proper authorities.
It’s easy to join the chorus condemning the public’s latest accused harasser after the fact, but if you don’t have the courage to speak out when it happens, you’re no better than the rest.