sexual harassment and redemption arcs

cw:  sexual harassment/ abuse/assault, rape culture

I have been really upset that certain people have been called out for sexual misconduct recently.

I’m not upset that they’ve been called out, only that they’ve betrayed any kind of trust or assumption of human decency I’d given them.

I’m not all that surprised, but upset and hurt.

It is no surprise to me that this runs so deep in our culture. The depths of our culture harbor some very hurtful things.

I am not going to name (again, in some cases) who I am upset by. I am not going to do that any more.

Everything has always been about them; their careers, their contributions, their reputations, their feelings, their place in our hearts. This is as true for the harassers in business who force victims out of the workforce and harassers who make it absolutely unbearable and unsafe for victims to be in public places (from streets to college campuses) as it is about celebrities and politicians and athletes etc who make the front page.

Media runs these stories, and the accompanying photo and narrative is about the harasser (unless it is specificly designed to discredit the victim). We talk about the harasser like he’s all that’s important, whether he’s cast as evil or bumbling or set upon by harpies.

This needs to change. It is starting to change.

There are other important, interesting people in these stories. There are others with careers, contributions, and places in our hearts. At least, they would have those things if the harassers would stop keeping them from it.

The framing “those accusers ruined his career!” is rape culture. He ruined his career and theirs (and gave them life-long trauma) through his own actions.

The framing “those accusers made me feel bad about my favorite star!” is rape culture. Your favorite star betrayed you, and them; and who knows but that they would have been your favorite stars if given half a chance?

I don’t want redemption arcs for sexual harassers. That’s not because I think they are all heinous and hopeless; it’s because *THIS ISN’T ALL ABOUT THEM*. That is a separate story if it is a story at all. And quite frankly it cannot be allowed to detract from the important story: that of literally everybody else. Non male, non white, non straight, etc you see where I’m going here. The harasser isn’t the only relatable (?!?) human in the room!

Those who have been named: You have actively contributed to rape culture. You have traumatized your victims, and quite possibly ruined their lives. You have stolen them from us. And whether you assaulted, or pressured through fear, or made their very personhood a joke to be dismissed by the world, in doing so you also gave everyone around you permission/ encouragement to do the same. You were in a leadership position, people looked up to you as a mentor, and *this* is what you modeled for them to copy.

Your apology will never be enough. You must show that accusers have consequences for such actions, not just the victims. The victims will be living the consequences every day of the rest of their lives, AND YOU SHOULD, TOO.

Drop out. Resign. Retire. There is your redemption arc, if one exists.

The rest of us need to hold sexual harassers responsible and enforce the consequences of their actions. Every sexual harasser. Every consequence. Every time.

And then we need to focus our attention on listening to and creating the narrative where we lift the victims up, and build a world where there are no such victims. We need a redemption arc for our society, our nation, our world. That can only begin when we realize the story isn’t just about these men.

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