The stories about sexual harassment, abuse and assault of women by men in power will fade because every story has a shelf-life. The staying power of the story is of undetermined length, but we know from experience that the media will move on.
The question is whether the revelations of the past two months will have had an impact that goes beyond the headlines or will we fall back into what we now know is the familiar pattern of some men in positions of power taking advantage of women, while the women are reluctant to come forward.
A good friend of mine, who is a professional woman, told me, “Every woman I know, and I mean everyone, has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace or sexual assault including being groped, kissed, fondled and touched in inappropriate ways.”
So why didn’t they say something? My friend wrote, “When this happens, most women do not turn around, haul off and wallop the offender; they look at themselves to see what they did wrong—acted too friendly, went into the room alone? They (and many others) blame themselves.”
If nothing else, that appears to be changing because abused and harassed women, through the power of their collective voices, are now coming forward. The message is that no abuser, no matter how powerful, is off limits.
CBS This Morning anchor Nora O’Donnell, following the allegations of harassment against her co-host Charlie Rose, said “This is a moment that demands a frank and honest assessment about where we stand and more generally the safety of women.” She said the revelations are producing a reckoning.
That suggests a settling of accounts for abuses that have occurred. Maybe that happens, but care is advised. Not all bad behavior is created equal. There’s a significant difference between boorish behavior and sexual assault. Each case must be judged on its own merit.
National Review Editor Rich Lowery wrote that we are undergoing a low-grade cultural revolution. “A model of predation practiced by scruple-less powerful men is getting destroyed before our eyes and it’s a very good thing.”
As men, we have held the most power in society for the longest and, until very recently, women could only accrue power through men. That’s changing for the better, but as has become evident in recent weeks, we still have a ways to go.
What we have learned most recently has been painful, particularly for the victims, but also necessary to bring about change.