About one year ago, actress Alyssa Milano helped put a spotlight on sexual harassment and assault when she said #MeToo.
While a victim of sexual harassment or assault could be someone of any sexual orientation or gender identity, and while a perpetrator could be a person or any sexual orientation or gender identity, the fact is that in the overwhelming majority of cases, the victim is a woman and the perpetrator is a man.
Ever since that fact has become a central topic in American discourse, men have reacted in a variety of different ways. These reactions have ranged from vocal support of those who say #MeToo (and even a few male friends who’ve said #MeToo) to vocal opposition and even mocking of the movement (for reference, see: Trump, Donald and others).
But how should men respond, one year after the #MeToo movement went viral? Especially if any of us don’t necessarily view ourselves as “bad guys” who committed any form of sexual misconduct?
Here are a few tips I offer, as a fellow man, after much thinking and reflection about my own past actions (good and bad) as well as the actions of men around me:
- Listen to the experiences of the women in your life, even if it is painful to listen. Without listening to the women in your life, you might remain oblivious to how big the problem of sexual misconduct and assault is, let alone figure out what some of the solutions are. On the other hand, I can definitely say that I have been blessed to listen to the experiences of the women in my life (including painful experiences), and I am better for it. Others would be better for it by doing the same.
- Deeply examine your own actions. And when I ask men to “deeply examine actions,” it’s not enough to have not committed sexual harassment or assault. We men need to seriously examine whether we have, as individuals, treated the women in our lives with the respect that everyone deserves. Because if we don’t—if we make rape jokes, brag about sexual conquests, cross emotional boundaries, cross other physical boundaries (even if it’s an unwanted hug), defend the actions of known predators, consistently shut down and interrupt women, and/or do nothing when we see other men committing the aforementioned actions—then we are showing the same lack of respect for women that leads to sexual harassment and assault. Deeply examining your own actions toward the women in your life may be difficult—even painful—because you realize that some of your actions are not as good as you want them to be. (I can say that for myself, too.) But I also know that this is an important first step in changing your own actions for the better.
- Hold the men in your life accountable for their actions, too. I know from experience that this is oh so difficult when you feel the need to confront a friend you care about deeply. Maybe that’s why I’m often not good at it, even when it really is But it is also extremely important to show that tough love every so often if, say, you notice another male friend constantly interrupting women. And, if your male friend is willing to listen, it will make him a better person for your tough love.
These are just a few ways that men, even “good men,” can respond to #MeToo. I’m sure there are other ways men can respond to #MeToo in a productive and positive way. If you think of any of those ways, please reply in the comments section below!
Some of the questioning of recent days has focused on why Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, would even consider not testifying on her sexual assault.
In her piece, Jill Richardson explains that there are actually many reasons why women might not want to report sexual assault. Furthermore, quite a few of those reasons involve the unjust ways in which our society treats survivors of sexual assault.
For more details on the reasons why women might not want to report sexual assault, I encourage people to read her original post. As a man, I found it very informative to read why someone like a Dr. Ford may be hesitant to talk about her experiences. Hopefully, others will find Jill Richardson’s post to not only be informative, but also a call to be less judgmental to sexual assault survivors who don’t report their assaults.
Post: “Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault”
A couple of weeks ago, a grand jury report stated that over 300 Catholic priests in Pennsylvania sexually abused more than 1,000 children.
For me, this report was a punch to the gut emotionally. As a practicing Catholic who, for four years, had deep ties to one of the dioceses mentioned in the report (Diocese of Harrisburg, during my time at college), it would be an understatement if I said that the report was difficult to take.
Yet, in spite of the difficulty of even thinking about (let alone writing about) those in my own denomination perpetrating such horrible wrongdoings, I think that it is important to talk about this matter. Namely, it is important to dedicate my first “blindly just” post to organizations that are working in Catholic circles, or in non-Catholic Christian religious circles, to help victims of sexual abuse.
The purpose of this post is not to go into one of the “oh…look at the fact that not all Catholics/non-Catholic Christians are abusive” types of messages. No, the purpose of this post is to: a) attempt to be a resource for people who love their Catholic (or non-Catholic Christian) faith but have been hurt by sexual abuse within Catholic/non-Catholic Christian institutions and b) show to advocates on this issue, regardless of faith, some faith-based allies in the battle to confront sexual abuse in the Catholic Church (and other spaces) that many of us might want to consider working with.
Organizations doing this good work include, but are not limited, to:
- Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP)-SNAP was started in 1988 by Barbara Blaine, a victim of sex abuse by a priest. Since then, SNAP has worked to help survivors and those vulnerable to abuse, while at the same time advocating for various reforms to help curtail abuse in the Catholic Church and beyond. They have everything from their own hotline to support groups to advice on choosing a therapist. http://www.snapnetwork.org/
- Road to Recovery-Road to Recovery was founded in 2003 by Robert Hoatson. New Jerseyans may be most familiar with him as a candidate for governor last year, but he was actually once a priest who was suspended from performing priestly ministry because of his tireless advocacy for victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church (and is now no longer a priest). He and Monsignor Kenneth Lasch (who is still a priest, albeit a retired one) have an organization dedicated to, among other things, providing services to victims of abuse, offering referrals, advocating for victims of abuse, and providing direct and indirect services to victims of abuse. www.road-to-recovery.org
- Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF)-They provide Christian counseling to people in need at three different locations across the United States. This is more on the counseling side of things than the advocacy side of things, but counseling is still an important resource in confronting sexual abuse. https://www.ccef.org/
- AdvocateWeb-From what I can tell, AdvocateWeb is, above all else, a site dedicated to providing a wide range of resources to victims of sexual abuse (and even some resources for family and friends of those who were abused). Think of AdvocateWeb as a database of resources for those who have been abused, instead of simply being a resource all by itself. Speaking of being a database of resources, they have a whole page dedicated to Christian organizations and groups dedicated to helping to address sexual abuse. So, if you’re not satisfied with any of the previous three resources I gave, maybe a referral from this fourth resource might help. Several clergy people (albeit I’m not sure of denomination) are on their Advisory Council. http://www.advocateweb.org/
These organizations, all of which have deep ties to Christian faith (and with the top two, more specifically Catholic Christianity), do not negate the damage that’s already been done by Catholic clergy. However, these organizations are hopefully of help and hope to advocates, as well as people who want to keep their faith but struggle because they were abused by someone within their own churches.
I have to admit that I knew very little about actor, comedian, and filmmaker Aziz Ansari before I heard about the sexual misconduct allegation against him.
In the wake of the babe.com story detailing Ansari’s sexual abuse, I learned about his career, his apparently being a feminist, and his committing actions that go against his supposed values.
Now that I know some about him, and now that I’ve read the article detailing the sexual misconduct allegation against him, I think that it’s time to say a few things that are relevant to this case and the theme of exposing blind injustices on this blog:
- We must listen to accusers. I feel the need to emphasize this because many people haven’t listened to Ansari’s accuser, who goes by the name of “Grace.” Doing anything less than listening completely and wholeheartedly to Grace would go against the very notion of listening to and empowering victims—something that #MeToo is supposed to be all about. In the spirit of #MeToo, and of human decency in general, we must listen to her.
- We need to learn about consent if we haven’t already. Unless both people say “yes” to kissing, advances, and sex, the answer is “no”! If one person says “no,” like what the woman said in the piece, the answer is “no”! If someone doesn’t specifically say “no” but makes body motions or verbal cues indicating that the answer is “no,” the answer is “no”! And silence means “no” unless you’re told “yes”! I just feel that this review of consent needs to be made painfully clear in the aftermath of how some of the talking heads handled Aziz Ansari and the issue of consent.
- We must also stop trying to justify actions that cross others’ boundaries. In the case between Grace and Ansari, people on social and even some news media tried to find ways to justify what she said Ansari did to her. Honestly, there is no defense for kissing, going at her breasts, or anything semi-sexual or sexual he did when there is no consent! We should stop defending such non-consensual actions as a society, because if we do, we’re frankly starting to become part of the problem that led to #MeToo.
- We should remember that the Ansari story is a cautionary tale of how advocating against injustice doesn’t make us immune to being unjust. Ansari shows that you can be a feminist (which was how he described himself) yet still do something to a woman that you regret. If I’m honest with myself, there have been multiple times when I too have advocated against an injustice only to commit the injustice I’m trying to advocate against. If one man could be a feminist who assaulted a woman, and if I could be a racial justice advocate who has advocated for things that hurt people of color, then you could certainly be, say, an LGBTQ+ supporter who has said or done homophobic things.
- Finally, the Ansari case should be a call for all of us to examine our own actions. Some of us may shock ourselves by committing the very injustices that we advocate against. However, unless we carefully look at our own actions, both good and bad, we will repeatedly commit wrongful actions and never do anything to correct our wrongs. May we not make this mistake.
For some of us, maybe even most of us, following all five of these suggestions will be difficult at best. However, it is in our own best interests, and the interests of those around us, to start acting on these suggestions.
 I once advocated that my college would not ban an anonymous social media application called Yik Yak, even though it was clear that some of the things on Yik Yak were repeatedly hurting students of color. It wasn’t one of my better moments, to say the least.
Honestly, I’m still struggling to find words on the Aziz Ansari sexual misconduct story.
However, fellow blogger Emily Sullivan Sanford talks about how the lack of coverage on sexual violence against developmentally disabled people (especially compared to coverage on Ansari) demonstrates how hidden this injustice is.
She is right. There is a lack of coverage on sexual violence against developmentally disabled people, and as a result there’s a lack of awareness on this issue. I know this because I wasn’t aware about this problem until I read her post.
This issue shouldn’t be ignored, since people with developmental disabilities experience sexual assaults at a rate seven times their counterparts without developmental disabilities.
I hope that all of us can learn a thing or two about sexual violence and developmental disabilities through reading this post.
via Aziz Ansari, #MeToo and the Problem of Empathy