Senator and former-professional comedian Al Franken built his SNL career around skits in which he was depicted as a sexually ambiguous, sexually deviate weirdo. It is, therefore, not surprising that he would have groped a sleeping women as part of an immature, thoughtless joke nor is it surprising that a women would have been offended by an unwanted kiss from him. Similarly, it is not surprising that former Kiss bassist Gene Simmons, who is said to have had sex with over 10, 000 women, would engage in the “lewd” acts that resulted in his lifetime ban from Fox News. It is intellectually dishonest to think otherwise. It also intellectually dishonest to ignore the sexual misconduct of high-profile figures like Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Donald Trump for the convenience of politics and personal preferences.
The culture of the political industry, much like other industries, is one where the unheralded misdeeds of others are either used to further a rival’s interests or concealed to avoid scrutiny of everyone’s misdeeds. Reporting a misdeed to a higher authority, i.e. asking for help, is far too often met with silence and retaliation, because far too many people, even innocent people, are far too worried about the discomfort of being scrutinized for any potential wrongdoings they may have done. It is a “no snitch” culture. Victims are either supposed to accept their victimization or retaliate without the help of authorities, because no one wants to be caught up in a situation where they might face social or legal consequence. When the veil of silence is lifted, however, everyone reacts with the highest level of shock and condemnation to misdeeds great and small, yet it is almost always a forced reaction to something everyone fully understood.
The simple truth is that few people try to do the right thing. Keeping the peace and avoiding uncomfortable circumstances for most is a higher a priority than protecting others from harm. Frankly, sexual misconduct and assault are part of a far broader issue in politics, the entertainment industry, and beyond. First of all, it is important to always remember that both men and women can sexually abuse women, children, and men. An uninvited kiss from a woman is generally considered a romantic gesture by most, yet the same action from a less than handsome man will leave a recipient feeling violated. Not only do subjective interpretations on what constitutes as sexual misconduct help sexual predators confound victims and witnesses, the layers of hypocrisy surrounding sexual abuse stand in the way of accountability.
With that in mind, advocates for victims of sexual harassment and misconduct hope to inspire perpetrators to reflect on the harm their action and words do to victims. After all, most harm is the consequence of a failure to consider the impact of one’s actions on others. This is an important lesson that goes far beyond cases of sexual harassment, misconduct, assault, and other forms of sexual abuse. There is also a need to reflect on the harm being done to all those who are victims of thoughtless and/or abusive individuals. Sexual harassment, for example, is a consequence of a community failing to protect vulnerable individuals by condemning the behavior. It is a failure of people to place the emotional and psychological wellbeing of community members above a perverse “no snitch” culture where the perpetrator is the victim.
When it comes to crime, the police are the higher authority charged with keeping people safe from harmful actions like sexual abuse. There are valid reasons numerous subcultures inside the US fear police involvement, yet the police still primarily exist to keep safe. Because the safety of every community ultimately rests in the hands of all community members, an inability to trust the police to keep people safe requires individuals to take responsibility for each other. Community members must decide to take action against abuse in all of its forms. In the case of politics, the higher authority is the People. It is why the truth must be reported to the general public. Criminals work in darkness to hide from those who would stop them. The truth is often uncomfortable for everyone, but only the light of the truth can keep people safe from those who would do others harm.
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