Sexual Harassment Simplified

Recently, here in Europe, I had dinner with a friend who happens to be an accomplished Italian female artist. The subject of abuse against women came up, given the recent accusations against Harvey Weinstein.

Suffice it to say, the uproar against people who abuse their power, namely (but not limited to) men against women, has taken hold throughout Europe too. The English parliament is in turmoil with resignation on top of resignation, from both the Liberal and Conservative parties, because of sexual harassment scandals. French women took to the streets en masse on Sunday, October 29th, to protest sexual assault against women. The subject is also being confronted in Italy, along with discussions of the terrible epidemic of femicide. Last year alone, in 2016, more than 116 women in Italy were murdered by the hands of men.

Interestingly enough, while some women are up in arms and protesting, there seems to be another contingent who put much of the blame on the women. My friend and I were discussing Harvey Weinstein and she asked my opinion on why these celebrities waited until now to bring up the accusations. I soon found myself defending these victims and I got very upset. Not because I agreed with her, but because it was the third woman in a matter of days to question the validity of the accusations. Not only did they question the validity, they had comments insinuating that it was the women’s fault. I was appalled. My blood began to boil. I tried to remain calm and see their point of view, but now I feel I must come to the victim’s defense.  That is why I decided to blog about it.

Let me be clear, though, I don’t want to blog about willing participants, of which there are many. I’m not talking about the ones who want to make it to the top by any means, the calculating ones who use any opportunity for success that comes their way. I’m talking about the millions of women with ambition and goals who must mitigate paths to success often controlled by men – men with power.

The first friend to have questioned the accusations pulled up a picture on her telephone of Harvey Weinstein surrounded by actresses, some of which are the accusers. The actresses are all smiling and snuggling up to Weinstein. She felt this photo indicated that they all had asked for it, or, in any case, were not angry about his abusive tendencies in the past. The next friend I discussed this with simply inferred that the women should not have allowed the abuse to happen. They should have used their brains. If Weinstein was having meetings in his hotel room, she said, the actresses should have brought a friend along for safety. In her mind, everyone knows that meetings shouldn’t take place in hotel rooms. After the third friend of mine suggested that it was also the women’s fault; that they held responsibility, my blood began to boil. You see, someone very close to me was raped by a very powerful person who held her career in his hands and she didn’t speak up. How did it happen? Why didn’t she speak up? Why do young women get themselves in these situations in the first place? Why don’t they take measures to avoid the problem? And why do they look like they’re enjoying the company of the perpetrator?

Here’s why. It’s only my opinion, of course, but I tend to think that many victims will agree with what I have to say.

Let’s start with ‘How did it happen?’ Simple… and yet not. The answer isn’t black and white. The main reason, though, is because one person holds a lot of power over another. That’s it. The powerful person controls the people around him. He has goffers who do his bidding, he has the power to destroy those around him, and he is too valuable to piss off. The bottom line is he has the power to manipulate any, and all, situations to his liking because of who he is.

Let’s move to the next question, ‘Why didn’t she speak up?’ Again, simple. Because the perpetrator holds all the power over the victim. The power to deny. The power to manipulate the situation so it looks consensual. The power to put the blame on her. The power to destroy all her years of hard work. Or to destroy her dreams before she even gets started. And the power to use all the powerful people surrounding him to hide the truth. That simple.

What about the question ‘Why do women get themselves in this situation in the first place?’ Why? Simple. Again, it falls to power …and manipulation. These abusers are masters of manipulation. They manipulate their victims. They put them in awkward situations. Situations leaving their victims with only the ability to give the benefit of the doubt, or run away and face the consequences. ‘Oh, I’m sure he’s harmless,’ they say. Or, ‘If he tries something, I will just say no, I can’t, I’m not interested. Then he’ll leave me alone.’ Or maybe they tell themselves ‘He’s telling the truth. He does have something important to show me in his apartment – or his hotel room – or his car.’ How about, ‘The agency would tell me if he was dangerous. They would warn me, right?

Wrong!  The abusers manipulate everyone around them. Often the people who can blow the whistle – because they know the truth- don’t. Why? Because he has the power to destroy them too! That’s one reason. Or maybe because they’re not nice people; they don’t care. They just don’t give a damn. Or maybe they want to garner favoritism with their boss. Could be that too.

So, what about ‘Why don’t these victims take measures to avoid the problem?’ The answers lie in several places. Like, maybe the victims, many who are only teens, aren’t that street smart. Or maybe they aren’t that smart period. Or perhaps they’re afraid to speak up. Intimidated. One might wonder why they don’t bring friends along when they have an appointment in a hotel room. Well, maybe they simply don’t think of it. They might not be good at on the spot quick decisions. Or maybe their agency assures them it’s ok, it’s how he always interviews candidates, not to worry. Maybe, too, these victims are desperate. They came from poor backgrounds and want to ‘make it’, never in a million years thinking they are going to be attacked!

Finally, why do these victims look like they’re enjoying themselves in the company of the perpetrator? Again, it’s so simple. He has all the power. He’s not a nice person. He’s evil – very evil. And he likes to destroy. Destroy any, and all, in his way. That’s why they look like they’re enjoying themselves. They’re playing the game. But, I’m sure somewhere inside they hate him. HATE HIM! But, they’re powerless. Until now, that is.  Now that the cat is out of the bag, we must put a plan of action together to stop this from happening. It is NOT the time to make excuses for scumbags. It’s time for us women to stick together, support our sisters, and stick it to the abusers!