Like many of you, I was captivated by the testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. While we all have personal and political stakes in the outcome, I would hope that we can start to come to consensus on at least something with respect to the issue of sexual misconduct.
In nearly every case of an accusation of misconduct, in the realms of business, the church, politics, entertainment, and athletics, the accused absolutely refutes the accusation. Yet we KNOW that such misconduct takes place, and that, in fact, the majority goes unreported. There are rare exceptions, like that of Sen. Franken, where the accused accepts even a small degree of responsibility. But in almost every other case, the response of the accused and their defenders is to claim that the accusers are mistaken, liars, and much worse.
It is impossible that these accusers are all liars and gold diggers; that is a simple fact. There is no question that we must preserve the presumption of innocence, but we simply have to begin to give equal weight, at least to the point of thorough and impartial investigations, to the accused, many of whom come forward at great risk and under considerable stress. We simply MUST stop counterpunching with the assumption that the accuser is a liar, just because we have a personal or political reason to support the accused. The FACT is that many of them are telling the truth about their friends, bosses, priests, relatives, coaches, trainers, and co-workers.
I want women to take every bit of power they can; I think our world would be much better off if women had a greater degree of control. But I want men, including me, to own their share of the problem, and that starts with this: when a woman accuses a man, or a child accuses a priest, or an athlete accuses a coach of sexual misconduct, even someone we know and respect, first SHUT UP AND LISTEN. Support the accuser in her right to be heard, and support a full investigation. And then we can debate the results and the consequences.
The bottom line is simple. We all almost certainly know people, mostly men, who are guilty of this kind of misconduct, now or in the past. Statistics don’t lie. We have to start leveling the playing field in favor of victims who have been abused in a range of ways, a field, as we saw last week, that continues to tilt radically against those who have already suffered enough. As educators, we have to find ways to bring this learning into our schools. This is not political; it is an evolution of human decency that is way, way overdue.