There have been far too many articles placing blame on women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted. Sexual harassment and assault are often perpetrated by individuals in power who rely on the silence of their victims to continue with their repulsive, inappropriate and often criminal behavior. As we have seen, many women have tried to ring the alarm about this rampant behavior in all professional sectors. However, far too many other women rush to defend men who have been serial abusers, thus reminding us that some women will gladly carry the mantle of patriarchy for the most despicable and grotesque men among us. It is imperative for us in the 21st century to shine a light on these predators, and if we do not or cannot, we must believe and support women who do.
Recently the actor Terry Crews spoke out about his experience with sexual harassment. As a Black man well over 6 feet tall and weighing 200-plus pounds, he felt completely vulnerable and unable to speak out about his experience for fear of the professional consequences. Women do not have the physical stature of Crews, so they are even more vulnerable and compelled to stay silent after the incident. Unfortunately, far too many professional settings have a covert (or even an overt) ethos of inappropriate sexual behaviors that are often shrugged off as “men being men” or the “culture” of an institution. It is again unfortunate that our society does not spread a culture of acceptance and truth about sexual assault and harassment. Far too often, a woman who accuses a male of harassment will suffer far greater professional consequences than the actual perpetrator. Women are rational actors. Therefore, many will weigh their long-term versus short-term strategies as to whether they should come forward. Often the incident is so traumatic that many women do not want to come forward. In these instances, we must not jump to the conclusion that silence equals implicit agreement.
The recent revelations about the persistent sexual misconduct of Harvey Weinstein served as a flood gate for so many women to courageously share their stories of harassment and attacks. However, after speaking to several survivors of sexual assault, the “moving on” phase is incredibly difficult for some and almost impossible for others. There are far too many men in the workplace who continue to be predators or reminders of the predators they once were or wish to be. One need only look at the White House to understand my point.
No matter what, if the spirit moves any reader who has survived sexual harassment or assault, know that millions of people support you, believe you and applaud you for your courage to keep going. Women (and men) who have survived sexual harassment and assault deserve our respect and, more importantly, our ears to listen and our hearts to make sure these behaviors are ultimately eliminated from our democracy.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream” and the host of The Aftermath on Ozy.com. You can find her on Twitter @Dr_CMGreer.