Are Women Part of the Problem?

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The wave of women speaking out about sexual misconduct has not waned since the Me Too movement began. In fact, the wave has turned into a tsunami. Over the last couple of days, there have been more allegations, and more powerful men losing their jobs. Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown was accused of sexual misconduct by more than one woman (who were teens at the time)and has resigned. Sport Minister Kent Hehr has also had to resign from Parliament because of allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct.

The hits just keep on coming.

I’ve talked to men and to women about this new phenomenon, and for the most part women are supportive and understanding. Most of us have been there in some capacity or another. Men, on the other hand, seem confused by the sheer number of women coming forward. Men like my brother.

In my opinion, that bodes well for those men, the ones who don’t understand how so many other of their gender could behave badly. But then there are the other men who see many of these new allegations as a “witch hunt”, as even actor Liam Neeson said in a recent interview.

There’s no doubt we have not seen the end of this, and I hope that when the dust settles there will be change. But in the meantime, I am worried by some of the attitudes and comments of some women. I’m not surprised by the confusion and even by the judgment of some men, but I don’t expect that of women.

With the bombshell about Patrick Brown, women were interviewed on various news networks. Most of these women found the accusers not to be credible. They wondered why the women had waited so long to come forward. They saw Patrick Brown, a man in a power position, as an upstanding citizen and good guy. They pointed out that Patrick Brown had not been convicted in a court of law so they felt it was unfair for him to have to resign.

The problem with sexual assault, as NDP leader Andrea Horwath so eloquently pointed out, is that is hard for women to find justice. She mentioned Gian Ghomeshi, whom I believe would have been convicted had he had his day in court now, as opposed to over a year ago.

There is an ongoing and pervasive problem of sexual misconduct by men toward women, and I am baffled by any woman who questions someone else who speaks out about what she has experienced.

As a woman, are you part of the problem–a person who enables men by shaming women? Are you someone who is judging perhaps a friend, a colleague or someone else who might dare to speak out against the sexual misconduct she was subjected to? Are you questioning why she would wait so long before coming forward with her story? These very questions make it all the harder for women to speak up about something that we illogically take the blame for.

I saw a recent video by women who went off on a rant about this topic. She stated that yes, some cases were clearly valid. But she went on to state that many cases were not. How could she know this is my question. But even if some of the cases aren’t valid–and I won’t say that they’re not–what good comes from putting out a video for millions to see where you malign a good portion of women by stating that they are attention-seeking, over exaggerating, unable to take a compliment, or just plain uptight? Yes, I’m sure some women do fit those descriptions. But I would say that many more women have suffered in silence.

More women would certainly know to pick their battles and not complain because a man whistled at them, versus groping their behinds.

I’m not about to make a complaint about a man just because he gave me a compliment…or even a series of compliments. I would complain when he crossed the line and physically touched me, or tried to kiss me. Or followed me. Or cornered me in an elevator. Or stuck a hand down my blouse to give me a tip. Yes, that last scenario happened.

When women don’t stand with other women on this topic when we know all too well that sexual misconduct is rampant, we give power to the men who want to ignore us. I’m glad that overwhelmingly women are being heard now and believed, but we still need to see change.

Will there be change when women and men malign those who have the courage to speak out even if it is months or years after the fact? A man in a power position losing his job is punishment, yes, but some of these allegations need to be met with a criminal charge. That’s where I worry that women who don’t stand with other women can help prevent justice if and when a man has to face a charge in court.

We need to listen to women and believe them, even if we have doubts. But why have doubts? I have stories I’ve never told anyone, and if I shared them now I would be devastated to hear people say I was possibly lying, simply because I was too afraid to speak up earlier. And I know that I’m not alone.

I was glad to hear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau say today that he unequivocally supports the women who come forward to share their stories about varying levels of sexual misconduct. This is what we need to do as well…unless there’s some overwhelming evidence to say otherwise.

For the women who question whether or not something negative happened because too long of a time has passed, please know that there will be many women even now who will never have the courage to come forward and speak out. And you are part of the problem.

We need to get to a point where men and women accept the fact that when someone speaks out against sexual misconduct she (or he) needs to be heard. We need to give these people the benefit of the doubt instead of rolling our eyes and saying, “Oh, here we go again.”

Only when we have a safe environment where people feel that they can speak up and be believed can we really begin to combat this pervasive problem. This is why there’s a tsunami of stories being told now; because there’s safety in numbers.

We want all of the stories out there so that we can tackle this problem once and for all without the shame that accompanies it for the victims who are blameless. And we want men to begin to realize that all they’ve been taught about what’s okay and what’s not in terms of how they behave sexually needs to be relearned.

I’m curious to know what you think. Are you the type who says, “Come on, how can ALL these stories be true? Where were all these women before?” Or do you know, as I do, that there are likely millions of women who have taken horrible secrets to their graves. Those women would be applauding all the people who are finding the courage to take a stand. And you should too.

Perhaps you agree with me. Perhaps you don’t. I’d love to hear from you either way!

Kayla Perrin is an internationally acclaimed, award-winning USA Today and Essence best-selling author, with 46 books in print. Perrin is best described as passionate, fearless, motivated and self-driven to excel at whatever she pursues.

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