alchemy

Our empathy demands outrage over abuses

Column by Andrea W. Doray
Posted 9/25/18

Another week, another #MeToo. In fact, the events of last week generated another hashtag – #WhyIDidntReport – after a spectacularly uninformed tweet from Donald Trump questioned why one of Brett …

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alchemy

Our empathy demands outrage over abuses

Posted

Another week, another #MeToo. In fact, the events of last week generated another hashtag – #WhyIDidntReport – after a spectacularly uninformed tweet from Donald Trump questioned why one of Brett Kavanaugh’s accusers, Professor Christine Blasey Ford, did not report her alleged sexual assault by the Supreme Court nominee when it happened 36 years ago. As of this writing, there have been more than 675,000 responses to #WhyIDidntReport, making it the top trending topic worldwide.

If you’re curious about why women don’t report – we are ashamed, we fear retaliation, we’re convinced that we will not only be disbelieved but also blamed – you can find the answers from almost any news outlet. As a victim of both harassment and retaliation, I could tell you my own stories.

I’m not writing here to discuss Trump or the Kavanaugh drama that continues to unfold. Rather, I’m reacting to the reactions to this situation and other #MeToo revelations. Apparently, every organization, every politician – in fact, every interested observer – takes sexual harassment and sexual assault “very seriously.” These people find the allegations “troubling,” and they affirm their commitments to a “diverse and inclusive environment.” Forgive my skepticism in the age of Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, Les Moonves, and the various other predators who have become household names. Plus, let’s not forget that religious institutions and women such as Asia Argento (herself a Weinstein victim) have also been accused of “sexual misconduct.”

But I digress.

What I’m really reacting to are the fervent declarations from people who cite their daughters, wives, sisters, girlfriends or mothers as the reasons they are troubled. Take, for example, what University of Southern California President C. L. Max Nikias said when confronted with the accounts of hundreds of young women sexually abused by a gynecologist at USC’s student health clinic. I paraphrase: “I take these allegations very seriously … I am deeply troubled … my two daughters attend the University.”

Ah, there’s the rub. Would Nikias – or anyone else who invokes a beloved friend or relative – be so troubled otherwise? I admit, I’ve been guilty of this myself, because putting a face, especially a familiar face, on trauma helps us to empathize, to realize that someone we know or love could become a victim.

But to define a victim’s worth – any victim, female or male – to define that person’s worth only in relationship to someone else is to deny her or his essential humanity as an individual.

Nor should a woman need to be famous to rouse our interest, attention or even awareness. I’m grateful to celebrities and others who have used their public profiles to spotlight the shame, blame, and retaliation both they and ordinary women face when they come forward. I’m grateful they have helped articulate why victims choose to remain silent, sometimes for decades.

Just as we don’t need to be parents to be stunned, shocked, sickened by school shootings, we also shouldn’t need to imagine a woman we know being violated to be outraged. It’s irrelevant to whom she is related.

When one individual, one human being, is ever abused – harassed, groped or assaulted – by another who holds some sort of power over him or her, that is the entire outrage.

Andrea Doray is a writer who believes that whether victims are stars of the silver screen, or are people like you and me is also irrelevant. Contact Andrea at a.doray@andreadoray.com.

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