Today, several additional men including Matt Lauer, David Sweeney, and Garrison Keillor were fired from their high-power positions in media over allegations of sexual assault. In their path, they follow countless other men who have been outed since the initial accusations against Harvey Weinstein in October.
These instances have followed a very straightforward timeline: one person speaks up about an alleged assault, others may or may not come forward, and the alleged perpetrator will lose their position of power. But just like any discovery of a vermin infestation, for every allegation of harm that peaks its ugly head through the woodwork, there are a thousand more yet discovered.
Sexual violence has been a longstanding problem endemic to the U.S., from the period of U.S. colonization to chattel slavery to our current president’s administration. From the White House to the board room, or any place where a sexual predator is in power, how can we possibly begin to end something that is so deeply embedded in our culture? And what does justice look like?
In order to truly begin dismantling the power that sexual predators wield, we’d be forced to reckon with the ways in which our society enables them every single day of our lives. We convince ourselves that they’re “only kidding” when they make lewd jokes. Instead of believing victims when they come forward with their stories, we approach their situation with suspicion instead of compassion.
We would have to have difficult conversations with our friends and family on the way they regard women as sexual objects or prizes to be won. We’d think twice before stepping in the name of love or binge watching “Trapped in the Closet” for nostalgia’s sake. We would disenfranchise the businesses of alleged and known harmful men. We’d cut off people who in our lives call women out of their name in order to rob them of their humanity. Maybe we’d even let the world know about their wrongdoings so that their victims don’t have to pile on the emotional labor to prove their innocence.
But we must ask: is any of the aforementioned enough? Will loss of jobs, shaming, or imprisonment help? How are we supposed to find the cure to a seemingly old virus that is steeped in the very foundation of everything we’ve ever known? And how do we make sure that every single person understands the severity of this crisis and their place in this fight?
Basically, we’d have to start getting real about the ways in which we all perpetuate violence every single day. Nobody wants to admit when they’ve done wrong. Which means a lot of wrong will continue to be done, until we get comfortable with being uncomfortable.