As a black man in America, I have to assume that the rate of sexual abuse/harassment is at least equal to the alarmingly high levels of racism (both overt and institutionalized). I don’t think the average white guy understands how much minorities go through on a day-to-day basis. So in turn I don’t want to be that black guy that doesn’t believe how much women are going through.
The problem most of us men have with this subject is coming to terms with the world we grew up in. A world in which it was funny and acceptable to see Pepé Le Pew harass and grope a female time and time again. Even to this day some men treat women like that, saying they like women that play “hard to get.” Plenty of men are scared to have daughters because subconsciously they know how dangerous it is for women. So, I can’t in good faith say I don’t believe most of the recent accusations about powerful men. I have to support women like I would want them to support other minorities
We as a society are in the midst of an awakening of morality. We each are coming to grips with a rapidly evolving hive consciousness in this country. Everyone is now reexamining their preconceived notions and recalibrating what their new north is. We are realizing that what we once thought was innocent and lighthearted humor has permeated and festered in a dark part of our society that we have looked past for far too long.
By most accounts we all thought we knew what sexual harassment was. We even thought the definition of sexual assault was universally understood, but that has turned out not to be the case. You have to put yourself in a vulnerable place to understand sexual abuse. It is based on the use of power against those with less power. That is a broad definition, but in reality it has to be in order to encompass it all. Power is not always used by force or with promises, not by cunning and persuasion, rather by all of the above and sometimes unintentional intimidation.
As recently as last week it was alleged that another entertainment executive had sexually assaulted a woman he had known for years. Before I started reading the article I made a deliberate decision that I was going to side with the accuser in the article and try to view everything from the perspective of a victim.
The strangest thing happened while reading the article and that is what initially encouraged me to share my opinion with others. I read how prior to the alleged assault the executive was a friend of the accuser’s family. The executive admired the accuser’s family and over the years made an effort to show how much he fancied the accuser as well. He would buy her small gifts showing that he was thinking of her (flowers, balloons, cards). They never went out on a date with just the two of them, but they were always out with one another in group settings.
At the end of one of those nights the executive offered the accuser a ride home. The accuser noted that she told their driver where to take her but, her request was vetoed by the executive who used his power to tell the driver where to take them. The doors locked and the driver took the two directly to the executive’s home. It was stated by the accuser that the executive was never violent toward her. The executive was never verbally belligerent, but she still felt ill-equipped to get herself out of the situation. The accuser stated that at least two or three times she said no with verbal commands but, she noted that she was fearful to do anything else in fear of the situation becoming violent. For over 20 years she never told anyone until now.
The entire time I was looking for that one overt act. I was looking for someone to physically overpower someone. As a man I had failed to realize how paralyzing the sheer thought of power can be. I realized how wielding power unjustly ruins lives. I realized that we’re all scared to admit how pervasive sexual abuse has become and how entrenched it is within our society.
Frederick Xavier Ravin lives in Durham III.