The core of this story was in part 1, yesterday’s blog post.
May it be clear that sexual abuse has nothing to do with sex, and everything with abuse of power. So it is more hurtful when done by someone in a position of authority. And it is most painful in the area of sexuality, since sex is meant to connect, but sexual acts without permission are the greatest disconnect possible. It’s like advocating murdering innocent not-dangerous people “for peace and justice,” completely stripping such words of any meaning. Serial molesters do not have a sex addiction. They are addicted to hurting people.
The focus in the news is now on big famous perpetrators. Yet, the bulk of this abuse is by millions of regular people. Let going after the worst cases not be a fig leaf behind which the rest hides. Similarly to when we want to uproot hatred for Jews, we need not just go after hardcore Nazis. The manifold so called “small” offenders need to stop or be stopped at least as much as the big violators.
(One may understand how fortunate it is that these filthy violations of women in Hollywood now finally come out, when we compare it to the Hollywood “sex” abuse of child actors, that still has not bursted.)
Most of the emotional work in perpetrators’ therapy can be done on how they once were violated. Sadly, there are people for whom there is no fitting therapy yet, especially secretive power-holic empathy-challenged con artists. Divulging what they feel, think and remember is too scary for them. They rather hurt others than take such a risk.
What happened in most cases of sexual abuse may not be so bad compared to the worst cases, but that is little comfort to the people it happened to. And repeated “small” violations add up. And the earlier in life they happened (no, we remember them deeply, even from before we can talk or walk), the more hurtful they are.
Men should think twice (and first count till 100) before “sizing up” or staring at women they meet or commenting on their appearance.
“Minor” sexual violence is so widespread that bringing up the issue could deteriorate into “everyone does it, it’s not so bad.” A. It is so bad. B. “Small” violations add up over time. C. The banality of “little” transgressions does not make the gross ones banal. D. Rather, the graveness of big abuse demonstrates how bad the “trivial” ones are. E. Worst, “minute” violations prepare the ground for the major ones by sowing powerlessness and confusion that makes victims freeze in fear, just when they need their strength most, to resist and escape.
We should not be pleased if almost all of those who admit these transgressions will be women and GLBTQs – people statistically more empathic, blamed, guilt-ridden and oppressed than the rest. But we should also not be thrilled if most women and GLBTQs play innocent and pure and let heterosexual men do almost all the confessions. (It’s easy to see that often oppressed people (like workers, women, Jews, homosexuals and others) take a brave lead against injustice, and it’s no scandal to follow them, but it is to let them walk it alone. Male honor and strength once did not mean beating up people who seem weaker but taking pride in standing up for them (chivalry). That could be patronizing, but it may also shield and save a woman who briefly feels weak from years of exposure to sexism or other oppressions.)
In the Western world, sexual abuse is rife. In deep prolonged therapy, all women and almost all men eventually tell stories of having been abused sexually as children already. That means easily that all child molesters were abused themselves. But, 80% who remember their childhood sexual abuse never abuse children. We must stop the denial of endemic sexual violations of our young ones (No, Freud, these are not just infantile fantasies) and stop the very abuse.
(After a lot of deep therapy, I discovered my own occluded memories of being sexually abused. There was a woman (yes, women molest too, but often still less gruesomely so) who violated me during diaper changing, but I’m sure that she was just curious and meant no harm, so I never confronted her. Surely she would not remember and it would break her heart knowing that I did. Then, when I was very small, there was an oversexed person who was in a lot of pain and being left in her care was no picnic. Eventually, for the same reasons, I forgave her too, because she truly denounced all oppressions in the world including incest. And then there was this guy in the hospital when I was five, but his exposure did not hurt me. I only wondered why he looked so guilty. And then, before birth, I received six months of daily high doses of DES, which was the worst of my sexual abuse. One may learn a lot from extensive deep prolonged therapy, and not all of it is always sweet. I continued until I regained my happiness!)
Many people may think to themselves: Why open up old wounds? I’d rather not dig up what time has buried. There is some value in that but this has also some unfortunate consequences. If we do not clean up our past, we can’t truly understand the depth of hurt that we may cause others because of us being blinkered. But it is not good to dig around in the past. We “forget” what we can’t handle. But when we face what bothers us now, memories will surface without us seeking them. To keep ignoring them, (subconsciously) costs us energy daily, keeps lessons of our past and brilliance of our mind jailed, and gives eternal victory to the abuse and our defeat. That’s what we choose?
Now I think back, I can write my own stories of #metoo as young adult. There was this old man who wanted me to take nude pictures of him (“to document his skin treatment progress”), which request made me very awkward. No way was I going to do that, but I didn’t want to hurt him with homophobia or ageism. He persisted and I felt very uncomfortable to have to keep saying no, though I did not give in. Then there was this older guy who uninvitedly “innocently” put an arm around me in public, which made me freeze. And another one who put his hand on my leg in the bus. I didn’t even know at the time that I was (what they call) attractive. And then, till today, there are these women whom I don’t know who stare at my groin – for minutes on end. No, I say to myself, I’m wearing underwear, my fly is closed, I don’t have a bulge, I’m sporting ultra-orthodox garb, why? I’m 6′ 5″ – maybe they have a stiff neck and can’t look up that far to my face? Do they hope that big men are big everywhere and they wanna see? It disgusts me and I feel devalued to a piece of meat, yet not as threatened and humiliated as I hear from women undressed by men’s eyes. And then there was this boss who hated me and wanted me to resign. He said: if you don’t, I’ll have my secretary complain to the police that you sexually intimidated her (I never even saw her). No need to insist. I must say that, when someone lies to my face without blinking, I feel raped and want to scrub myself clean with lots of soap. That’s not considered sexual abuse, but it surely feels like it.
Repair the World
If we want to uproot “sexual” violation from the planet, it is not useful to try to divide humans into good and evil ones. In almost all cases, evil is an unfortunate hurtful choice for which we are responsible and which we need to repent for, pay for and banish from our lives, rather than something innate that is an inalienable part of some of us. “I’m evil” may sound like an admission of guilt but actually often is a fatalistic trick not to take responsibility, not to shape up. Don’t agree with it. If some people’s nature would BE evil, instead of having CHOSEN evil, they would be helpless and innocent. Rather than giving up on people (including ourselves) who harmed others, we must remember that we can always turn a new leaf and start help repairing the world, particularly there where we hurt it.
We need to appreciate people who honestly (!) set out to rebuild what they destroyed, especially if they did not hurt us personally. (Forgiveness, though, can only be given by the very victims.)
Extra confusing is that not only we should not divide the human race into good and bad people, but that many excellent people may have an evil streak (even a seriously bad one at that) and that deeply flawed people frequently have their really nice sides. I propose: The good does not whitewash the evil, and the evil does not undo the good! One case of serious misbehavior doesn’t sink all of an excellent life. But one nice talent or attitude does not excuse the serial abuser.
Meanwhile, prevention must reign. Not mistrusting everyone (there are trustworthy people) but still not trusting anyone forever (everyone is human), including yourself (Avot 1:4). Vice President Pence’s rule not to seclude himself with a woman not his wife, especially from him as a powerful man, is smart and worthy of being widely followed, no matter how angry it makes naive (?) feminists. (Clearly, many women are sick and tired of being seen as women first and as humans only second, if at all. Yet, men know the limited effect of de-gendering women. Further, if they have secluded meetings with women, how would they ward off possible false abuse claims? Still, down with imagery reducing women to subhuman caretakers.)
And attitudes and deeds that are off, like sexism, seeing women as objects to get from, sexually or otherwise, need to be challenged all the time, especially by men, until this oppression is eradicated.
Opposing any oppression will weaken the whole system because all oppressions form a unit of societal mistreatment of almost everyone. However, much energy has been spent on resisting oppression in explaining how it targets each of us. It is high time that many people shift nearly all of their energy from being advocates for themselves (a very important project) to being allies with everyone else.
We keep needing people who explain to allies how their oppression works. But then we need to hear from the allies too. We need to see everywhere signs and nametags with: “male ally of women,” “white ally against racism,” “straight ally,” “Gentile ally,” “kids’ ally” etc.
While finally facing the mess openly, we may be especially optimistic about the future. Deep down, everyone wants it to stop. Yes, we can.
Tomorrow part 3, even more gruesome confessions on #bymetoo