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Memories of assault last a lifetime

  • 19 October 2017


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.

Excuses 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