We have to do better. Not simply for the sake of our daughters, our wives, our sisters, or any other woman we may want to define by relationship. No, we have to do better because women are *people*. We have to be willing to listen and break the pattern of victim-shaming that has permeated our culture when it comes to sexual aggression. We have historically put all of the attention — largely negative — on the victim. In doing so, we suggest culpability.
When I was ten years old, an elderly man approached me in a toy store and attempted to molest me (true story). If he had succeeded, no one would have blamed me in any way. But if it had been a girl or woman of any age in my place, we might question what she was wearing, why she was alone, how she had led the guy on, etc. We infer culpability. And we have to stop it.
Victim-shaming only leads to victims being hesitant to speak out because they see it as easier to deal with the consequences of being assaulted or coerced than dealing with the fallout and shame of coming forward. Victim-shaming only makes the problem more pervasive. It makes life easier for sexual predators.
I know that I’ve unintentionally created awkward or uncomfortable situations for women in the past. I never intended offense, but intentions mean nothing. Instead of leaning on intentions, I had to listen without judgment, without ego, and without self-justification. That’s how we learn to do better. It’s not easy to hear you wronged someone, especially when you thought you were helping; but it’s better to hear and change than to continue a harmful pattern.
Guys, let’s be self-aware and self-critical. Be honest. Listen. And always strive to be better. If anything good has come from such public figures being outed for their flagrant mistreatment of others, it’s that it should make us all deeply self-reflective of how we can be better.
Because we can do better. We can be better.