Memories of assault last a lifetime

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As a teenager, I encountered — either as victim or witness — numerous incidents of male-on-female sexual harassment and assault. What was almost as disturbing as the incidents themselves was what happened afterwards.

Harvey WeinsteinExcuses were made. He was drunk. She was drunk. It was a miscommunication. They were both confused. He didn't realise she didn't want to.

The perpetrators faced few if any consequences. They continued to be treated the same as before — invited to social events, for example, that at times included their victims as well. As time passed there seemed to be an expectation that their victims, or witnesses to the events, would be understanding, and not 'hold a grudge'.

The message I received from these situations is that men shouldn't have to take full responsibility for the things they do to women, if it's of a sexual nature.

Some of the excuses provided for sexual offences committed by men against women would never hold weight when applied to other illegal acts. We would not say, 'If that old man hadn't made it so easy for someone to abuse him, it would never have happened.' Nor would we provide ready-made excuses for an arsonist by suggesting they were confused, drunk or had just been fired from their job.

Yet it seems when it comes to offences of a sexual nature, surrounding factors become more relevant, including the person's professional success or popularity. In the case of Harvey Weinstein, his talent, wealth or popularity are not relevant to his degree of guilt. The ever-growing list of women making claims against him over the several decades of his illustrious career should remain the focal point, with the only relevant information being what he did to his victims.

Most women know and have experienced the fact that there are a substantial number of men in society who are willing to use their power, physical or otherwise, to get what they want sexually from women. Which is why so many of us, myself included, have responded to the Weinstein story with sadness, but not surprise. I would be far more surprised by stories from women who have never experienced sexual harassment or assault at the hands of a man — that would be a truly shocking headline.

 

"It is vitally important that commentary around Weinstein remains self-aware, and vigilant against falling into the trappings of the disturbing assumptions that underpin rape culture."

 

This reality has been highlighted in recent days by the #MeToo campaign on Facebook and Twitter, with staggering numbers. The campaign gained prominence when actor Alyssa Milano asked women to reply #MeToo on social media to add their name to a growing list of victims of sexual harassment and assault, in the wake of the Weinstein story. The response came not just from big name celebrities but from 12 million Facebook users and 650,000 Twitter users in just 24 hours.

With the enormity of the problem, I join the many women and men who are glad to see the issue getting the air time it deserves, and am grateful to Weinstein's victims for coming forward. I'm glad there are men and women speaking out in support of the victims, and against this very wealthy and highly influential man. Because stories just like these are all around us, as uncomfortable as that truth may be.

For those who have experienced sexual assault or harassment, it can be extremely difficult to take action and bring perpetrators to justice. These difficulties, alongside a culture that all too often excuses such behaviour, perpetuates a culture of silence around the issue that allows it to continue.

We need to rally around the victims and condemn any public offers of support for the perpetrator, especially any hint at making excuses for his behaviour. Any public figure who voices support for Weinstein at this time is consciously or inadvertently supporting what is known as rape culture.

Rape culture gives us the notion that it is in any way understandable, excusable or normal for men to use unequal power dynamics or physical force to get what they want sexually from women. These assumptions are almost fatalistic, implying it is less a choice for a man to do such things and more a natural inevitability. This thinking flies in the face of a foundational belief in western society: that an adult person is responsible for his or her actions.

It is vitally important that commentary around Weinstein remains self-aware, and vigilant against falling into the trappings of the disturbing assumptions that underpin rape culture. Keeping these beliefs alive in any way has very real effects on women and men, young and old, everywhere this culture is allowed to exist. And I can tell you that the memories last a lifetime.

 

 

Megan GrahamMegan Graham is a Melbourne based writer.

Topic tags: Megan Graham, Harvey Weinstein, rape, sexism


 

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“In the case of Harvey Weinstein, his talent, wealth or popularity are not relevant to his degree of guilt.” No, but they are to the complicity of the left-liberal glitterati elites who, like Pharisees brandishing their phylacteries, brandish their posturings on gender, the environment and reproductive ‘health’.
Roy Chen Yee | 19 October 2017


I think the real issue is the cowardly cover-up. Weinstein was famous and powerful enough to get NBC News to can a story by journalist Ronan Farrow about an alleged Weinstein rape. The story was published by The New Yorker. In Britain, 1,400 girls, some as young as nine, were groomed, trafficked and raped over 16 years by members of the town’s Pakistani community. A report by Victim’s Commissioner, Louise Casey, found that Rotherham councilors turned a blind eye to this abuse in order to avoid being labelled racist. Screenwriter Scott Rosenberg who worked for Weinstein at Miramax Films claimed that “There was nothing secret about his voracious rapacity; like a gluttonous ogre out of the Brothers Grimm.” Rosenberg claimed “everybody” knew including all the big producers, directors, agents, financiers, studio chiefs, actors, actresses, models, journalists, screenwriters, rock stars, restauranteurs and politicians. But, said Rosenberg, if Weinstein’s behavior was reprehensible, “a not-so-distant second is the current flood of sanctimonious denial and condemnation.” Hollywood’s endless sermonizing and finger-wagging from the podium at various award ceremonies gives new meaning to that saying from Groucho Marx: “Sincerity is the key to success. Once you can fake that you’ve got it made.”
Ross Howard | 20 October 2017


There are very obvious and serious parallels here with clergy sexual misconduct against adults within the RCC, very much a 'spiritual' Hollywood sometimes. However, for some reason, the ability to view clergy as Weinstein-like characters seems to allude many Catholics, particularly those in the hierarchy. But they are like him, perhaps a little less 'obvious' and with the 'advantage' of using 'spirituality' to manipulate, but essentially, the same basic motivations of some damage-based need to dominate the vulnerability of those they have power over. And sex is one time when we are very vulnerable, oddly enough, even the perpetrator - hence the cyclic nature of this form of abuse. One day, the women and men who have suffered similar sexual abuse and harassment in the Church will come forward and a critical mass such as is happening now a little in Hollywood, will appear. Then perhaps the Church will take the sexual activities of its clergy more seriously. I am waiting for a "Me Too" in the Church regarding sexual abuse of adults by clergy. Soon.
Stephen de Weger | 23 October 2017


Stephen I think the "Me Too' idea in relation to the Church would be a great initiative.And not just in relation to clerical abuse but to a whole culture of denial that sadly still exists. In the past two weeks both Catholic high schools with which my children and now my grandchildren have been/are associated have been publicly associated with very recent cases of sexual abuse, one by a female teacher relating to female students and one by a high profile group of male students on a younger male student.(known to but not disclosed by staff). Many of us are absolutely reeling at these disclosures and asking ourselves whether the work of the Royal Commission has actually changed anything. Whilst we realise the legal complexities involved in both cases the responses of both schools in offering assurances that 'protocols are being observed' certainly offer very little reassurance overall. Only a realisation of how widespread and ongoing are the cultural underpinnings for these appalling incidents can bring about change.We all need to speak out.
Margaret | 23 October 2017


In the very beginning Genesis tells us that Adam blamed Eve for his sin, in an attempt to avoid guilt and responsibility for his own actions. Cultural norms exploited gender inequality then, as now, and still very little has changed. This means that females are exploited and ravaged by men whose power and ego causes them to become totally blind to the inherent beauty and dignity of the female. Thus men project their most vulnerable aspects (sexual performance) onto the female of the species. Is it possible that society can change the way things are? Because women are absolutely held to ransom by those patriarchal values that fail to recognize the true worth of a woman, and the fact that women are equal to men as members of God's human creation.
Trish Martin | 23 October 2017


Thank you for that feeling Megan . I couldn't agree more with your sentiments of outage at the silence, meaning complicity, of part of our society. Catholic church has a lot to learn from your words . To repent perhaps means to change direction.to look at things in a different way.to admit our attitudes may be wrong. Sexual abuse is a violation.of human rights, and should be treated as such!!! Thank you for challenging and confronting us , to look more honestly at this evil.!
Bernie | 23 October 2017


Graham piereces to the heart of the matter in the following paragraph: "Rape culture gives us the notion that it is in any way understandable, excusable or normal for men to use unequal power dynamics or physical force to get what they want sexually from women. These assumptions are almost fatalistic, implying it is less a choice for a man to do such things and more a natural inevitability. This thinking flies in the face of a foundational belief in western society: that an adult person is responsible for his or her actions." The particularly poignant part of this paragraph when it comes to matters that Stephen alludes to between Catholic priests and adult (over 17) female faithful is that which pertains to it being "normal for men (read priests) to use unequal power dynamics ... to get what they want sexually from women. ". This unequal power dynamic, based spiritually and authoritatively, is still to be recognised by most Church hierarchy as leading to abusive sexual interactions misleadingly still called relationships. The #me too tag for church adult spiritual power sexual abuse suggested by Stephen and supported by Margaret will only be effective once it is recognised by the Church hierarchy that these sexual spiritual power interactions are in fact abusive. Whilst it remains the case that priest perpetrators can have their faculties removed or even be laicised as a result of such spiritual power based sexual interaction and victims can be apologised to and given ex gratia or civil court mediated payments, and perpetrators can offer "full responsibility" for their behaviour in writing, yet all the while the recognition of abuse is missing and denied, then the tag will unfortunately remain meaningless until that for which the perpetrator takes "full responsibility", for which the apology and compensation is given, is publicly acknowledged and admitted to be in fact abusive behaviour rather than, as at present, mutual consensual behaviour. How long this shift in admission will take is anyone's guess, but mine is that once the RC hands down its report, its findings and recommendations, it may be that those over 17 abused but not recognised yet as abused within the Church and possibly some of the hierarchy may be able to start to glimpse that they can apply the RC findings and recommendations similarly and appropriately. We await.
Jennifer Anne Herrick | 23 October 2017


I agree with your comment, Trish but we forget too, that Eve blamed the snake. We all need to take responsibility. Genesis to me is about being spiritually mature and psychologically evolved human beings who work together and who differences compliment each other...where women bring out the best in men and visa versa rather than look for others to blame for what are originally our own sins. When we do not do this, we leave God's garden of peace and have to toil in the world of our own making, so to speak. We are all guilty of everything so I still come back to that prayer: "God, fix the world starting with me". Yes, we need to analyse and deal with systemic problems but we also need to consider our own often unconscious agendas, as well as the overarching canonical and secular legislations and group-think agendas that create the cultures we live in and that we feed back into.
Stephen de Weger | 24 October 2017


I agree with your comment, Trish but we forget too, that Eve blamed the snake. We all need to take responsibility. Genesis to me is about being spiritually mature and psychologically evolved human beings who work together and who differences compliment each other...where women bring out the best in men and visa versa rather than look for others to blame for what are originally our own sins. When we do not do this, we leave God's garden of inner peace and have to toil in the world of our own making, so to speak. We are all guilty of everything so I still come back to that prayer: "God, fix the world starting with me". Yes, we need to analyse and deal with systemic problems but we also need to consider our own often unconscious agendas, as well as the overarching canonical and secular legislations, and group-think agendas that create the cultures we live in and need to feel accepted by and that we feed back into.
Stephen de Weger | 24 October 2017


The article is about hypocrisy in Hollywood but, I suppose, any excuse to hit the Church is too good not to be taken. Cover-ups are a natural institutional response. It’s happened in the military and the NSW Greens have just had their little experiment with under-the-carpet sexual harassment. Address each context as it occurs (as Megan Graham does) even if, for the Left, the Church, like Donald Trump, has an uncanny ability to live rent-free inside their heads.
Roy Chen Yee | 24 October 2017


Jennifer, I did write another comment which simply changed a few words of Megan's article so that it read like a commentary on clergy sexual misconduct against adults in the church but it hasn't been posted. I thoroughly agree with you and believe that the Church is even worse than Hollywood at accepting that their own Fr/Br/even Sr Weinsteins exist and that their behaviour with adults is indeed abusive and often criminal. So, in an effort to bring this issue further to the fore, I decided to not wait for someone else to do it and am now setting up www.catholicmetoo.com where any victims/survivors of clergy sexual misconduct, abuse, assault, harassment can tell their story or simply say, 'yes' this has happened to me among other avenues for discussion. It is currently under construction, so, keep trying. Meanwhile, back to Hollywood. As I mentioned elsewhere, the greatest weapon we have against sexual offences of any kind against anyone and by anyone is exposure, talking about it. Thank you Megan for your contribution here.
Stephen de Weger | 24 October 2017


Yes Stephen unconscious agenda do play a big part in gender dynamics and the only antidote I know to this problem is to practice meditation daily. Verbal prayers are a form of recognition that something is lacking, but solitude and meditation actually open up the subconscious mind which raises self awareness. But this has very little to do with the inequality imposed upon women in our Patriarchal society where men with power often seek sexual favours in order to advance a woman's career. It happens in medicine, law, politics, wherever women do not get equal pay for equal work. Why is this so and how do we change it.
Trish Martin | 24 October 2017


Trish, I do agree with but I am seeing that as female power increases, that the avenues and actualities of female abuse are increasing as well. As such, this is a human power abuse issue which happens to be one currently dominated by men abusing women but at its heart it is not a male issue but a personality one, the abuse of power by a human being to use another for their own pleasure. If we do not recognise it as this then we may be not hitting the target and may actually be increasing the animosity between women and men rather than bringing both together, to fight against all forms of sexual and other power abuses wherever it occurs and by whoever it is perpetrated. Perhaps the fact that I am a male makes it easier for me to say this but believe me, my 'form' of maleness has seen me on the receiving end of both female and male abuse and manipulation, both sexual and power-wise. As such, I do understand women who have experienced this, but I also understand that it is a human fault and not only a gender-based one. No one should get away with or be excused from the behaviour Megan describes...no one. By the way, my website is up and running. So, anyone who has experienced some form of clerical Weinsteinism while an adult, please visit www.catholicmetoo.com .
Stephen de Weger | 24 October 2017


.....and yes, we do have analyse and seek to change any systemic enablisation of responsibility denial, especially in male culture, as, yes, this is and has been the dominant culture in which such childish lack of responsibility and might I say, real manhood, has flourished. I'm right in there fighting this good fight as well, at the heart of the most masculinely ambivalent and confused system of all. I recognise all this but I am getting more and more tired of our contemporary society seeing everything as a bad male vs good female dichotomy - it's just too simplistic and causes more harm than good in the long run, just like the 'all liberals bad' / all conservatives good , or, 'all conservatives bad / all liberals good, does. We also need to be looking for and promoting the opposite of such heinous behaviour by promoting truthful and mature understanding of love, the opposite to all this crap. For this, I always turn people to Erich Fromm's "The Art of Loving". We need this to fill the void and the blackness created by the lies of the sexual revolution and of sexual abuse in any form. Sorry, I just despair sometimes, I really do, when I see what the current generation is having to cope with now. I see the fallout all the time. Weinstein is just one expression of this.
Stephen de Weger | 24 October 2017


I hope Eureka Street will allow me to post this. Well, if anyone is interested, I have got the "Catholic 'Me, Too", website up and running. As I mentioned elsewhere and as this whole sorry story is proving, the best weapon we have against sexual assault and clergy sexual misconduct as well, is to talk about it...for victims/survivors to come forward, anonymously even, to say 'me, too'. So, please do so if you fell so inclined by going here: https://www.catholicmetoo.com/ . Also, I do not have (by choice) a social media account of any kind, so if you feel so inclined, could anyone please connect the website to facebook, twitter or whatever. Thank you in advance - Spread the word. I'm just trying to spend the last quarter of my life doing something good for this group of forgotten people.
Stephen de Weger | 25 October 2017


Stephen, you have identified what I would call the Catholic notion of Original Sin: the mindless use of human power against another, for one's own self- advantage or gratification. I'm a big fan of Eric Fromm and his writings on love, and if the Commission for the Doctrine of Faith spent more time defining how to discover and live in mindful relationship with God's love perhaps we would all be in a better world. Transparency, accountability and personal responsibility for the most vulnerable must become the norm in the Catholic institution. Good luck with your new website, I hope it is a way for victims to become free from their isolation and loss of faith, and perhaps raise clergy awareness to the need for urgent change.
Trish Martin | 25 October 2017


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