originally published by progressive.org
Last year, while I was working for a local television station, I booked a prominent minister/author/academic as a guest on a public affairs show I was producing. The man proceeded to make inappropriate and unwelcome sexual advances to numerous women involved in this appearance.
I said nothing. Others who witnessed this behavior also remained silent.
When the news first broke about Harvey Weinstein, I initially read nothing other than headlines. I didn’t feel emotionally equipped to deal with the story.
In fact, I felt the same reticence when similar stories broke about Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, and Donald Trump—to name just a few folks in power who have been named as sexual predators. I wanted to put blinders on, to avoid the painful particulars.
These alleged instances of sexual misconduct are fundamentally about the abuse of power. And a recurring theme, going back at least as far as the confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas more than a quarter-century ago, is that the accusers often suffer more serious consequences than the accused.
These are transgressions committed by people who are confident in their ability to break rules and get away with it. As Trump bragged in his infamous “Access Hollywood” tape: “I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
Often in these situations there is an imbalance of power based on age, gender, financial success or fame. And this imbalance is a matter of fact, not just perception. Often there is an effort to buy silence through secret settlements. And when the targets of sexual predators do speak up, they are often accused of lying, and grilled as to why they did not come forth immediately.
In Harvey Weinstein’s case, the alleged victims were not employees and not protected under anti-discrimination law. Casting couches are a known way of doing business, yet few victims have broken the silence and even fewer perpetrators have been taken to task for their improprieties.
But for me, the abuse of power in these situations goes beyond the legal realm. We need a process of healing for the survivors and an education for all. We need the courage to stop being silent witnesses to abuse.
As for me, I will no longer be a silent witness to any sexual harassment or impropriety. I will speak out directly to the perpetrators and hopefully others will follow suit. Together we can let our moral compasses guide us in the right direction.
It starts with one voice, my voice. That’s all that is needed to break the silence and start to end the abuse.
Peace, love, joy, gratitude, faith, courage, compassion, and blessings.