Friday, November 17, 2017

One Extreme to the Other

America runs everything into the ground. Take sexual harassment. When I was 15, I was the victim of attempted rape. The perpetrator was my cousin's husband's cousin. I couldn't talk about it because the boys, his friends, threatened to tell everyone at high school I was a slut. I was a sophomore and afraid. I kept my mouth shut.

It was not a defining moment in my life.  I did not have PTSD because of it. I could talk about it, then and now, without crying. I mostly forgot about it.

I worked as a bartender/waitress in a rowdy rock and roll bar. There were many instances of milder forms of harassment - unwanted kisses, breast touches, butt grabbing. I, like most of the women I knew, simply shrugged those situations off. 

Not every incident is the same. I felt not much anger at some of our customers whom I liked when they weren't being drunk and stupid. I'd give them a little push and say, "will you stop it?"

There were others from whom I sensed more malign intentions.

"Do that I again and I'll get you thrown out of here," I'd say....and they knew I meant it.

It doesn't matter what industry you are in. Doctors do it, lawyers do it, teachers do it, actors do it and politicians certainly do it. It's been going on forever and we didn't care...until recently. Now we've decided to get hysterical about the subject. Now we want to re-litigate every accusation. Well, unless the accused is someone we like, that is. I'll admit, I thought President Clinton got a raw deal. Certainly, it was true about Monica but the others? I don't know. Most of them were paid hefty sums by right wing conspiracy groups like Judicial Watch who'd been after the Clintons for years and still are. I thought he was an excellent president so I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Monica didn't even come up until 14 months after Ken Starr had been appointed Special Prosecutor to find something - anything - to nail him with.

Now people are saying - "he should have resigned." Well, that's over and done with. What about the serial predator we have in the White House right now? Should he resign? I despise him and I wish he would resign but not necessarily because of sexual harassment.

We've flipped the switch in how we regard the women. We used to brush them off. Now we hasten to say we believe them.

If it is a recent case with some evidence behind it, I think we should believe them at least to the extent of doing an investigation. But I'm sorry, if it is years old, they should not be able to simply decide to make a charge and be believed if they have no proof except their word. 

I worked in the legal system for many years. I emerged from that experience with somewhat less faith in both women and men. They will both lie at times for venal reasons. She will accuse him of molesting their children because she wants custody. He will swear that she physically abused them because he wants custody. A man was just released from prison after six years when his accuser recanted. No one deserves to be believed just because they say so.

Companies and institutions like Congress need to have programs that give women support and encouragement. The one Congress has now is a pathetic joke. The law needs to take women more seriously. Co-workers need to back her up if they too have been harassed or have at least heard the stories a la Harvey Weinstein. Surely there were powerful women who could have taken him on long before now.

Women need to be more courageous about telling their stories. It isn't good enough to decide to speak out 15 years later. We need to be willing to do it now when we can nip it in the bud and not let a man go on for years preying on less powerful women.

I personally think we should set a statue of limitations, say, seven years. If you haven't spoken out by then, too bad, so sad. You lose.

But beyond that, we should let the men know that we will no longer tolerate them behaving this way. Congress, law enforcement, prosecutors, the judicial system and groups that represent professions should get serious and all should declare their willingness to throw out members who persist in being sexual harassers.

So be warned - our new attitude starts now.

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