Why Do These Sexual Harassment and Assault Allegations Matter Now?

Every person ever victimized should have an opportunity to speak, to come forward, disclose their assaults. To speak up. Report the harassment. To tell what happened. Speak the truth.

We probably all can agree on that.

Even if no form of justice is pursued, it is part of a healing process. Maybe they feel relief. If some consequence for the suspect, even public scorn, comes from their disclosure- perhaps they feel vindicated.

But did I miss something in the ladies’ restroom? They are coming out in groups from all over the country. It is like a united front.

So, what has been going on out there? Apparently, there are too many hands posing as an extension of someone’s sexual organs. Not really. It is all about power. It is a brain thing, not a lust thing.

With the violations being about power and control and not some horny person, it is actually much more frightening. They have a serious deviant control problem. Think about it.

I heard it through the grapevine

Are these the rumors coming to the surface which had been spread throughout the workplace grapevine of Hollywood, the corporate world, and just about every occupation you can list?

Except park rangers. They mostly work solo.

Maybe they were breakroom gossip at one time. They could have been reported, but no action was taken. Or they could have been secrets.

Why now? I don’t buy the narrative swirling around the Interwebs that victims feel safe now. What happened four weeks ago to make a protective blanket around this publicity?

Seriously, I really need to go to the powder room more often because I am missing all the important stuff.

The newfound safety doesn’t account for the mass disclosures on public television. Some of these victims are still at risk for facing retaliation. There is some strong scrutinizing going on after the big reveal. The victims might get massacred on social media. Some are being revered.

Many of the sexual assaults are so old they cannot be prosecuted. Several of the sexual harassments are he said-she said and were never reported to employers.

The weight of the social risks and personal costs each of these victims undertake when they come forward, must be taken into consideration. Many allegations have no physical evidence. It’s a big deal.

Are the victims stronger today than yesterday? I don’t know. Each situation is different, so to blanket them is unfair.

The Change

The phone rang the other night and I was surprised to hear the voice of one of my old detective partners (retired sergeant).

We talked about the mass report flocking to get in front of a camera. We both agreed there was no surprise at the depth of perversion and shameful acts, but he posed some rhetorical questions. “Why do these sexual harassment allegations matter now? Some are decades old. Are they trying to bring someone down? Is it personally or politically motivated? You can’t tell me all these victims are social justice warriors. Are they?”

Those are very good things to ponder. Motivation is something cops seek to find in every major case.

So, what is going on here?

We, as a nation, are all throwing up our social conflicts at once. All the skeletons are coming out. I think it stems from a multitude of voices speaking out about many things.

People feel compelled and supported.

Everyone is sick of everything and now it is time to air the dirty laundry? Maybe, someone looked into a crystal ball and said, “2017. That is the year we all come forward with injustices of all kinds and tell our stories to the press.” And, so they did.

The country is going through social change. It’s like menopause only worse. Cramps, hot flashes, cold spots. Lots of anguish.

I believe it makes more sense that the reports are coming forward en masse because of social change rather than everyone feels more secure. What magic force field made it safer in the last year?

It certainly wasn’t bureaucracy.

See. You start with reporting to your employer, then go through the company’s complaint process. Then you wait, probably give a few statements to several people, and work gets more uncomfortable. Do you feel like working there anymore? Well, you have to because you have bills to pay. Maybe you file a charge. Perhaps you file a lawsuit in state or federal court, wait, then you go through court proceedings. Now your peers do not want to associate with you. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Sounds like fun, right? I probably even left out some steps.

I am not saying these procedures are bad. They just are personally difficult. They are no less difficult when a victim comes forth with a criminal case. 

What This Means For Me And You

Hopefully, these incidents teach people to treat each other with respect. Additionally, they offer a look into dark consequences when you violate the rules. You filthy animals.

We have laws. These laws govern both criminal and civil acts. Much of what we are seeing today involves workplace circumstances. With that, there are employment policies, regulations, and laws. If offenders violate a criminal statute, then the police get involved.

Yet, these broadcasts have a common factor. They either were ignored when they were divulged, or they have not been reported until now. The complainants seemed to skip the normal reporting process/legal channels, and went right to the press.

Publicity also means the court of public opinion and social pressure will win over fairness and some judicial proceedings. Or at least make some things difficult. In some cases, it forced CEOs to make some decisions.

We can all agree that the disclosures do not require a structural hierarchy to get to the person or group of people who takes care of such complaints or crimes. But, I don’t remember the press being the first choice.

It is like Slam Poetry or Spoken Word. And then the mic drops, and the pieces are left on stage.

This is a time of world announcements and proclamations. Up front and center. For all the universe. Why? It isn’t clear to me yet.

Gone are the complaints which would be investigated without contamination and interference.

Most of the accusers have been women. Why is that? Are they the perceived underclass stemming from age old notions and just took all this because reporting was harder than facing social justice? Who wants to be unemployed and then blackballed because they spoke up? Is that why it perpetuated so long in history?

It started out with a few voices and then multiplied into a daily headline. I do not know really what to make of it. Am I surprised that it is so prevalent? No.

Do the offenders get a pass because too much time has run out? Some do, some don’t. It is a social horror story.

It is also a police nightmare. Can you imagine the increased cases which may or may not be prosecutable? And then you have the citizen confusion of what is a crime and what is a workplace violation. Or is it both? Law enforcement might be busy sorting out crimes from employment issues.

But one thing I am concerned about is that now everything is viewed as a sexual assault. What do I mean by that? I hope the public does not begin to minimize sexual assaults.

They are egregious violations of the mind, physical body, and soul.

Remember back in junior high when you would get a drink at the water fountain during gym class, and you or your peers might get your shorts pulled down and then the person ran, and everyone laughed? Well, later in life that somehow moved from a prank to a bullying tactic to sexual harassment to sexual assault.

See what I mean? Sexual assaults are defined by state statute and involve intrusion. Look it up.

Depants-ing at the water fountain does not mean your daughter or son was sexually assaulted. It could be bullying or harassment which the school can sort out. It is normally not a police matter. I can guarantee you I have discussed that point with many parents and school officials angry I did not march a depantser out to my patrol car.

It has become a common phrase to describe any act which makes a person feel uncomfortable.

I hear it on the streets, out in public, in coffee houses. It’s probably present in donut shops too, but I don’t frequent those places. That’s just a rumor about those pastries and the cops.

People are lumping things like bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace to mean the same as sexual assault. It is not the same. Not by statute definition and not by context. Definitely not by violation. Do both make people feel violated and uncomfortable? Yes. Can you cross both lines in one act? Yes.

As cops, we understand most sexual assault victims do not report. Sexual harassment is even higher.

Why? Most people do not want to deal with the aftermath and/or fear retaliation from the suspect. If it happens in the workplace, most people dread conflict at work and believe the report will affect their livelihood. So, it goes unaddressed.

In the work world, it is a little hard to breathe out there right now. The media has covered news blasts of actors, directors, politicians, and officials losing their jobs. Furthermore, they are blackballed.

Not that it isn’t justified, but it sure is more severe and hurried than I have witnessed.

Find A Work Balance Of Respect And Camaraderie

What does this do? Why does it matter?

Well, hopefully it changes the way we think about things and the way we treat others. But at the same time, none of us want our place of employment to be an establishment where we have to tippy toe around each other.

I’m used to being direct and without a filter. I also expect the same in return. But there are rules of respect.

These complaints in the news are often lacking physical contact. It is words. It is the way a person looked at another person. As police officers, we all know about miscommunication and interpretation. In some instances, words and looks can be harassment, but they are not sexual assault.

Are women and men going to be afraid to work together? That might be extreme. It also might be an initial knee-jerk reaction. Do you see Judge Dredd-like options in our future? If we all blade ourselves accordingly to prevent any sort of complaint, then we should be OK?

But then again, I do not know if we will all work together the same as before these accusations flooded out into the public. By that I do not mean we accept the perversion, the harassment, and assaults.

I mean there is a huge fear of reprisal, fear of false allegations, fear of offending.

For those in the cop world, there already are unknowns and “the uncomfortables.” But there cannot be uncomfortable working conditions with peers. It is life and death out there. If they exist, they need to be dealt with and pronto.

Work must be done. Find a balance of respect and camaraderie.