The body counts are rising on both sides. The people coming forward to share their stories of sexual harassment and abuse continues to rise the by the day, by the hour. The number of men being accused of sexual abuse and harassment is rising just about as quickly.
What started with Alyssa Milano’s revelations and Harvey Weinstein’s fall from power was just the tip of the iceberg. The New York Times and New Yorker among a legion of other media outlets are keeping up with the fallout . Men now accused of harassment, many of them by multiple people, include: Weinstein, James Toback, Kevin Spacey, Brett Ratner, The Defense Secretary of the UK Michael Fallon, Kirt Webster Country Music PR rep to Dolly Parton and others, and NPR Top News executive Mike Oreskes.
Australian journalist and screenwriter Benjamin Law created the hashtag #HowWillIChange in response to actress Alyssa Milano’s #MeToo social media campaign (originally created by Tarana Burk on Twitter as @NJSpark) that she launched to her more than 3 million Twitter followers. In the weeks since the outpouring of accusations by men and women against men of power have become an international movement. Every day more Hollywood actresses, actors and executives are coming forward accusing many including Weinstein, clear back to the 1970’s, according to the New York Times on October 30. People coming forward include celebrities from Lady Gaga sharing her rape survivor story to actress Cynthia Burr, 62, who says she was forced to have oral sex with Harvey Weinstein 40 years ago as reported by the New York Times. Anthony Rapp and filmmaker Tony Montana both came forward within the past week as reported by the BBC among others, to accuse Kevin Spacey of sexual misconduct
Men (it’s been men to this point) are rightfully being called out for sexual harassment. The #HowWillIChange social media campaign is confirming that many want to show solidarity and contribute to efforts to end this epidemic.
The avalanche of support continues.
On Twitter on November 1, @Vasanth posted
What does each of us need to understand and do?
It’s not just Hollywood. It’s not just Washington, DC or Downing Street. It’s not just the media industry. This is a rampant issue found in worldwide workplace cultures, in which men hold the majority of power positions. In the United States women are clearly not in positions of power as their male counterparts., Although women make up 50.8 % of the population, they hold 60% of the undergraduate and graduate degrees and about an equal percentage of law degrees, only 14. 6 are top executives, 8.6% are top earners, and 4.6% are Fortune 500 CEOs.
To understand the severity of the problem, we first need to accept the wide and encompassing definition of sexual harassment. It’s not always overt or unwelcome sexual advances. The Washington Post on October 26 reported that “Many men aren’t even sure what sexual harassment is, when to check-off whether a series of actions amounted to ‘sexual harassment or assault.’” And nearly two thirds of Americans say men who sexually harass women in the workplace get away with it.
Err on the side of caution, situational awareness is key – pay attention to your physical proximity to the woman or man and stay aware of nonverbal cues. Although you may think complimenting someone on their clothing or appearance (even if it’s positive) think again. For some,this could be extremely uncomfortable (because they don’t want to be noticed for their physical appearance.)
If you are struggling with whether an action you are about to take is appropriate, consider this:
- If this moment were captured on tape and played on the nightly news, would you be proud to be featured?
- Would you feel noble if family member of religious leader were standing next to you in this situation?
In some states it no longer has to be proven that the alleged victim of sexual abuse said No, but rather the accused has to prove that the alleged victim said Yes. So, Yes means Yes. The state of California adopted this law in 2014. For the sake of clarity, “I don’t know, means No.” Sexual contact must be completely and totally consensual. If you sense any hesitancy on the part of the other person, stop, take a breath and remove yourself from the situation. Potential signs that moving forward that anything other than Yes means No:
- Understand that both people must agree that the time is right for sex. Every single time.
- If the other person brings up concerns such as pregnancy, STDs, wanting a committed relationship or monogamy first, the answer is No.
- If the other person gives non-verbal signals such as moving away, turning their head or pushing you, then it is time to immediately stop.
So, what can we proactively do to support the preponderance of people who have been sexually harassed in various forms?
- Talk about and post on social media your commitment to taking action – whether through words or physical intervention. Listen and be supportive, no shaming the victim.
- If you see another person, a subordinate, a young person being demeaned, touched inappropriately or uncomfortable with the discussion topic, don’t consider it someone else’s concern and not yours.
- Make it clear that you are there and seeing what is going on and speak to the aggressor or try to defuse the situation.
- Be the change. Be mindful of your own words, non-verbal cues and, of course, any unwanted sexual aggressiveness that would make someone else uncomfortable in any way.
- Be open to hearing others who share their experiences of being harassed and learn from them, even if it’s hard to hear.
- Ask questions, keep dialog open in all situations
In Aretha Franklin’s famous word: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. We must always respect the other person and ourselves. If we do that, we can be The Change, one PERSON at a time.
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