Like most things in life, the visible outcome of a deeper lying problem is a symptom, but not necessarily the problem itself.
If we focus too much on the symptom, we overlook the deeper issues that are actually causing the undesirable outcomes to occur. For example: Sexual harassment.
This is akin to an idea I’ve expressed before about cheating in a relationship. Cheating is not the problem. Cheating is a symptom (result) of a deeper-rooted challenge in the relationship that eventually results in something bad happening.
When we focus on important issues like rampant sexual harassment (which happens everywhere in the world), we literally put the focus on the act itself. Who was forced into a hotel room? Groped in the workplace? Or, even…raped?
These traumatic experiences stay with the men and women who experience them for the rest of their lives – and we need to talk about how people can express, heal, and move forward.
But we also need to talk about why these things even happen in the first place. Did the offender experience similar mistreatment as a child (or as an adult)? Is there an undiagnosed psychological challenge at play?
Or, is the person just a colossal asshole who has no regard for the feelings or wellbeing of others?
People who treat others like objects are typically so self-absorbed or closed in their own worlds, that they literally lack the empathy to understand that they’re hurting someone else. That – or they just don’t care.
Then, the question becomes: Why? What in their nature (or upbringing) makes them feel like it’s okay to act in these ways? Or, do they know it’s not okay, but are so overcome by their ego and need to dominate others, that they ignore the impulse that tells them to stop?
I am not licensed in psychology, but I believe these are important questions to ask. We cannot put band-aids on this problem and expect it to go away. Yes, we can (and should) prosecute those who’ve offended, but I also believe we need to find out why they did it.
We need to start raising our children with empathy and respect for everyone around them. We need to reinforce the ideas of fairness and equality. Love, and compassion. And most of all: Self worth.
No person who loves themselves and cares for others would intentionally harm someone else, especially in the most intimate, invasive ways imaginable. These are the questions we need to be asking as we dig to the roots of these issues.
There is a three-pronged approach here: Prosecute those who have already offended, stop those who are currently offending, and prevent others from offending in the future.
This post originally appeared on James M. Sama’s website.
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