Note: Although I have written this from a heterosexual perspective it is not meant to exclude those from the LGBTQIA community who are also touched and wounded by sexual harassment and abuse.
Where are the men?
It is shocking every time something hits the media about sexual violence and assault against women. It might be male privilege in the court system placing more value on the future “success” of a man than the pain and trauma of the woman he has assaulted, or the code that silently condones sexual relationships in power imbalanced situations such as doctors and patients, teachers and students, supervisors and employees or the recent confirmations of wide-spread sense of entitled sexual misconduct of public figure Harvey Weinstein.
Most now know about the #metoo campaign. It’s wide spread on Facebook where thousands of women are publicly coming out to say they have been victims of sexual harassment and abuse. There are even marches being arranged in major cities.
Coming out this way publicly is no small matter. It means facing the memory and all the unresolved issues surrounding that time(s) in your life. It is not a simple revenge or accusatory action. Many women are facing the fact of their trauma for the first time, especially publicly, and will be facing the consequences of this with increased emotional vulnerability, shame, insomnia, withdrawal, somatic symptoms and all the things that accompany trauma. Expect private and public impact because of this, some subtle, some not so much. In my years as a therapist for Victim Services and Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, I saw the full range of the effects of even a seemingly simple unwanted kiss of a supervisor upon an employee. Unwanted sexual attention or acts are no small matter.
But once again, as with the March on Washington, it is women taking the lead; taking action to push for more social awareness and honesty. It is women coming forward, revealing painful and difficult personal information. Why are there statistics on the number of women assaulted and not the number of those who assaulted? When will the ones who have perpetrated these acts come forward and be counted?
Reading comments on other posts here on the #metoo issue, it is clear that a lot of angry men out there are putting the blame on “feminists,” or women in general.
It seems men, as well as women, are still subject to and losing out on the full range of humanness that a patriarchal society deprives us of. As Terry Real points out in his seminars and books I Don’t Want To Talk About It (on male depression) and The New Rules of Marriage, a patriarchal society is traumatic for men as well as women. 1
Come on men. Step up. Maybe you are not ready to admit publicly (or even privately) that you have coerced, manipulated, ridiculed, shamed, dishonestly seduced, emotionally blackmailed a girl or woman in order to exert your sexual or power needs, or just for “fun,” but you certainly know someone who has.
So come forward. Start a campaign of #yesitstrue if you you know a man—even yourself—who has exploited, harmed, or used a woman without her 100% agreement. And remember, this includes inappropriate attention that treats a woman as an object for your physical or visual gratification like cat calls, telling an upset woman to smile so you can feel better, and “accidentally” brushing up or groping a woman in a crowded place.
Don’t let women carry this burden alone. Come forward. Be responsible.