Like a lot of you, I find allegations of sexual misconduct against Republican Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore alarming. I find it even more disturbing that there are people who think molesting a child is fine if that individual isn’t running for public office as a Democrat. And we are not going to play the “what about” game where you insert the name of someone whose politics you don’t agree with as justification for someone else’s bad behavior.
What will I entertain however is the question as to why didn’t Moore’s alleged victims come forward sooner? To someone unfamiliar with the impact that sexual abuse and assault have on the victim, I can see how that’s a fair question. And it’s a question I’ve been asking a lot of victims lately.
I recently put out a request in my social media circles asking if anyone had been on the receiving end of sexually inappropriate conduct and how they dealt with it. I can honestly say the answers ran the entire spectrum and gender was not an issue. I heard from women accosted by men, men accosted by women and there were even instances where both the victim and perpetrator were of the same sex.
I spoke with people in the service industry who’d been touched by patrons. Some people were accosted by superiors either at work or work-related functions. A close friend was smacked on the rear end by her boss in front of two other male employees. And one person even was put in a very uncomfortable situation by an elected official while on an out of state trip back in the 1970s, and both were the same gender. There also some examples that I can’t print without getting really graphic.
When asked how they dealt with the situations, I noticed a distinct pattern. If it was a customer service relationship, the response was usually pretty quick and swift and involved a witty retort. Most customers took the hint and backed off; the more aggressive ones were immediately escorted out of the building. If it was a boss-employee relationship, it got a little more complicated. Many of the victims were young or just starting their careers and perpetrators were usually people who were higher up in the company structure.
For example, one close friend back in the early 90s was groped in an elevator by a company vice president. Another colleague was “encouraged” to be more “cooperative” if she wanted to get ahead in the company structure. And one male victim was invited to a company function, but it turned out he was the only one who got the invitation from his female boss. So why not report the bad behavior? The reasons are numerous.
One common thread was that many of the victims didn’t think anyone would believe them. Think about this: a 24-year old new female employee accuses the company V.P. of sexual harassment in the 1980s or early 90s? Who is seriously going to believe her?
Also, many victims at times will blame themselves for the behavior, and thinking had they done something different, the incident would not have occurred. As an attorney, I helped a young lady a few years ago deal with a similar situation after being attacked while at school. The hardest part of helping her was convincing her she did nothing wrong and her attacker was the bad actor.
And when it comes to children and teenagers, take these issues and multiply them a thousand times.
It’s abundantly clear that Roy Moore, Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken and Kevin Spacey have raised new awareness about sexual predators and misconduct. The challenge now is where do we go from here? A friend who had been on the receiving end of this behavior made a very salient point to me last week. She says as more people come forward, it will raise more awareness about the issue and by doing so, more victims will come forward sooner and report inappropriate behavior and maybe, just maybe, it will encourage all of us to behave a little better because we know some things are just unacceptable.
That would be something both men and women want.
Abdul-Hakim is the editor and publisher of IndyPolitics.Org. His opinions are his own, but you are free to adopt them if you wish.