From R. Kelly’s alleged cult and abuse of young women to Bill Cosby’s repeated sexual assaults to a president who admitted sexual assault there has been much published lately about how fame has protected powerful men. Bill Cosby was one of my favorite comedians and someone I personally looked to as a role model who proved you could “keep it clean” in the comedic industry and still do well. The fame made me not want to believe he was capable of this...made me want to keep seeing him as the role model he had been when I was growing up. Admittedly, I have never been an R. Kelly fan and so believing the stories about him was a little easier. But it wasn’t the fame that protected these men. If we were living in a society where only famous men got away with rape and sexual assault I could believe that hype more easily but we are not in such a society.
As a therapist who treats severe trauma I see many women who have been subjected to sexual violence. Most of the time it is not by famous men, just by your average male.
The vast majority of the time their abusers never face consequences. Often the women I see would rather “put it behind them and move on” than have to face being victimized again by a society and legal system that will begin with questions like: “What were you wearing?” “How much had you had to drink?” “Why were you out alone?” and a million other questions designed to force her to prove she had done nothing to bring this on herself before moving on to the prosecution of the perpetrator.
In a previous article I wrote about the Stanford rape case and the father whose defense of his swim team son at Stanford was that he had made a bad decision in a 20 minute period of his life and should not be punished the rest of his life for it. The judge led the sentencing phase of the trial by touting this young man’s positive accomplishments and then promptly sentenced him to only six months because it was his first offense, seemingly moved by the father’s plea about bad judgement. Can you imagine someone being sentenced to six months for murder because it was their first?
It could be argued, of course, that power and fame had won out in court again, but I see the fallout of these cases all the time. I sit with women who do not want to pursue legal means of justice because they are faced with a system that will assume they are liars, or whores or...... and excuse the behavior of men.
The culture itself has to change or women will continue to face this kind of violence.
My daughter, who is 16, and has been raised with the “feminist” belief that she is equal to men was enraged when she was told by a teacher that her spaghetti strap dress was “distracting” and she needed to put on a cover. She called me to say she may get suspended because she had “mouthed off” to the teacher about not being responsible for the fact that hormonal boys could not control themselves. I assured her this was a proud father moment and she was not going to get in trouble.
This is exactly the issue! We continue to allow our culture to assume that it is ok for men to be weak and give in to their baser nature and that they would not do so if it were not for women trying to seduce them. These deeply rooted views that women have seductive powers over men that make them crazy and out of control still persists in our culture. It is born out of the male-dominated western religious ideals of women as seductress the blaming of Eve for the downfall of mankind. This Old Testament Christianity ignores the calling of Christ to compassion and non-judgment in favor of the shaming of Old Testament law.
Not all of this is born out of religion. Some is predicated on the legal system built on the idea of innocence until proven guilt, but undergirding that is a very serious and misogynistic view of women as seductress. In a murder case the burden of proof is on the prosecutor to show that the crime did happen and how it happened. The difference is that no prosecutor approaches the family of the murder victim and grills them about what they did that made them deserve it. Were they in a dark alley at 3 AM? Well we won’t prosecute because they shouldn’t have been. Were they carrying loads of cash openly? Can’t prosecute that when it’s obvious they brought it on themselves. These are not things that would ever happen, yet they are common place attitudes in rape cases that keep women from coming forward and seeking justice for the horrible things that happen to them.
Women are at risk ― not from men, but from the society that men have created that abdicates them from responsibility for their actions. That’s the change that needs to be made and it’s up to the men among us who see clearly to join in making that change.
I am saddened by the fact that powerful men can get away with the sexual assault, abuse and rape of women in my culture....but I am not at all fooled into believing it is simply because they are powerful men. Oh no....I sit with the survivors of the average men all the time and the story never changes.