Warning: this will probably get long. There will be some bad language.
Yesterday I posted something on Facebook, and the conversation there got a little….. I’m struggling for the right word(s), Heated? Passionate? Stupid? Interesting? Sublime? Frightening? Probably all of the above.
Here’s the post in its entirety:
Oh dear God, please stop.
“Another panelist, Gina Sosa, said of the allegations by Ford: “I mean, we’re talking about a 15-year-old girl, which I respect. I’m a woman. I respect. But we’re talking about a 17-year-old boy in high school with testosterone running high. Tell me, what boy hasn’t done this in high school?””
This one hasn’t. Not even remotely close, despite my testosterone running rampant. And I know many other men who can say the same. This “boys will be boys” bullshit excuse has to stop. There is NO excuse.
Included was a link to a Newsweek article that discussed a “panel” talking about the sexual assault accusations Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has levied against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. I’m not about to rehash that story here, it’s all over the internet.
I thought that my Facebook post was pretty clear–I have a real problem with people making lame excuses for perpetrators of sexual assault, rape, attempted rape, whatever other flavor of “sex crime” there is. As you can see from the copy above, I didn’t say Judge Kavanaugh was guilty (or innocent), I didn’t say Dr. Ford was a savior (or a bitch). While the “bullshit excuses” currently flooding in are certainly sparked by this news, my post wasn’t intended to be about Dr Ford and Judge Kavanaugh.
Despite my intentions, the comments (now over 625 of them, and counting) swiftly turned the focus to the accusations, the character of both Dr. Ford, and Judge Kavanaugh, conspiracy theories, baseless assumptions, and victim shaming. I should have expected that; such is Facebook, social media, and human nature.
More human nature surfaced when the trolls and personal attacks arrived.
“Jay Thompson the world is fucked up because people like you and your tribe twist peoples words, rush to judgement and burn the witches.” (my emphasis)
This, from someone who far as I know, I’ve never met. Yet he magically knows what kind of person I am, and who I hang out with. Whatever. Anyone can read the thread and see how his trolling and conspiracies were received. I should just block him, but the raging, floundering attacks are actually outstanding examples of what’s fundamentally whacked in this society, so his nonsense stays posted.
Sadly, stories of past sexual assault and rape also surfaced.
Remarkably, there was little defense of the issue I originally raised–lame excuses for abhorrent behavior.
Then there were the comments along the lines of:
A female enlightens us with, “36 years ago – no crime reported – no crime committed”
Typical male response: “Where are the police reports. . . . She can’t name the location, can’t remember who all was there yet she remembers it was this particular person. Come on. Really?”
Another man tells us his mother, wife, and daughter will never be attacked “because they are all empowered women.” The corollary of course is, “If you were an empowered woman you wouldn’t get sexually assaulted.”
Another male, apparently now an expert on memory, tells us, “But over the last 36 years, her memory has altered events. Maybe she has taken something WAY less serious and blown it out of proportion. Perhaps she has mis-remembered who was involved.”
Several provide the real gem that it’s not a sexual attack if clothes aren’t removed. (Seriously, you cannot make this shit up. People believe this!)
And there were many others focused on the fact that Dr. Ford didn’t report this alleged incident to the police, and hasn’t come forward until now.
So now I’ve got two gripes, first the absurd excuses of boys, teenagers, and hormones that inexplicably mean it’s OK to sexually assault someone as long as you’re a hormone infused teen boy. Nothing will ever let me wrap my head around that. And now we’ve got the victim-shaming and the utter insanity of (mostly) men saying it couldn’t be that big a deal if she didn’t report it when it happened. “Empowered” women don’t get raped. And it’s not serious, she’s blowing it out of proportion and mis-remembers.
On Reporting Sex Crimes
Here’s the short story.
Men, unless you’ve been sexually attacked you need to shut the fuck up about what a woman should do, say, report, act, or feel about their experience. You have NO CLUE what it’s like. None. So STFU. Forever.
Here’s the longer story.
- One out of every six American women has been a victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime (14.8% completed, 2.8% attempted.)
- Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted.
- Perpetrators of sexual violence are less likely to go to jail or prison than other criminals.
- Only 310 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to police. That means about 2 out of 3 go unreported.
(Stats courtesy of RAINN — the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, which is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.)
Sexual violence is the most under-reported crime in the country. Why? Take a look around. You’ll see victim shaming, bullshit excuses for predator behavior, women getting blamed for what they wear, how they walk. Unresponsive police. Dismissive police, hospitals, even clergy. Sexual violence is an incredibly painful (physically and mentally) experience where one questions what they did wrong, how they could face their accuser, fear over reactions from others, and many other things.
But Jay, you just said that men should STFU about how women feel about being sexually attacked. Who are you to tell us how they feel and why it’s under-reported?
My Experience with Sexual Assault
Before I go here, I want to make this perfectly clear. The personal experience I’m about to share is in no way meant to compare with what a female victim endures. But it does give me a little insight and understanding that many men don’t have. I suspect some men will read this and shake their head, maybe even laugh and question my masculinity. I used to care about that, now I couldn’t care less. But it took me a long time to get there. I haven’t shared this with anyone other than some of the Human Resources staff at the time of the incident, and many years later with my lovely and understanding wife. Even she doesn’t know some of these details.
Back in 1983 I was working in a semiconductor manufacturing plant in Austin, Texas. At that time, I was a “Lead Production Operator” which means I managed a small group of workers in one “layer” of the manufacturing process. Working the graveyard shift meant a fairly high employee turnover rate. I liked to train, so often new hires were put in my area to begin learning. I trained dozens and dozens of new hires. I’ll be honest, I don’t really remember any of them, with one exception.
Literally within hours of this person starting, I remember thinking, “wow, this woman is the biggest flirt I’ve ever seen.” I think it was Day 3 when she first asked me out. I politely told her no thanks, that I was in an committed relationship. That only seemed to ratchet up her flirting. Soon it went from “casual flirting” to statements like, “I can fuck you better than that girlfriend of yours,” and, “Your girl can’t suck dick like I can.” Yes, those were her exact words, and yes, I remember them some 35 years later. I went from being polite to telling her flat out to knock it off and that her conduct wasn’t appropriate for the workplace.
She didn’t stop. And I wasn’t the only one she was doing this with. As with virtually every workplace, the rumor mill was strong, and people talked. It didn’t take long before people saw her leaving for lunch with different guys, talking to men in hushed tones in the corner. Since I was her trainer, several of my male co-workers approached me and asked me if I knew about the conversations she was having. Bering a very junior manager, I didn’t know how to deal with it so I went to my manager for advice.
He laughed and asked me what she looked like.
I told him she was very attractive. His response was, “then why not do her?” Yeah, he was a real tough guy and a terrific manager.
I didn’t know how to react. I said something about how it wasn’t going to be long before some of the wives and girlfriends working there found out about what she was doing and that seemed like a shit show in the making. He said something along the lines of, “we’ll deal with it if it comes to that.”
Just a few days later, I was working in “the chase,” a service area between two production bays that normally no one is in. She walked in, closed the door and walked up to me. We worked in a semiconductor “clean room” and wore this long gown/smock thing that zipped up the front. She walked up, pushed me back into the wall and shoved her tongue down my throat. I pulled back and said stop it. She laughed, and unzipped her smock. Don’t ask me how, but she’d managed to get on all her clean room attire and take off her shirt underneath. So when she unzipped her smock, she was naked from the waist up. She grabbed my hands and pulled them to her breasts while she grabbed me in the crotch.
I’m not sure exactly what I did. I *know* I told her to stop, and I think I pushed her away, told her to put her clothes on, and I left.
I was embarrassed, humiliated, and confused. I didn’t know what to do.
So I did nothing. That was wrong, but that’s what I did. Nothing.
Over the next few days, she’d wink and smile and whisper things like, “I’ll let you do anything to me,” as she walked by. It was, by far, the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been in the workspace.
Then the shit hit the fan. Apparently she tried her “chase move” with another guy and his wife walked into the chase moments after the smock got unzipped. Wife, naturally, loses her mind and goes straight to HR. An investigation commences.
When I was called in, I told HR everything I’d heard her say, and about what happened with me in the chase. HR grilled me about why I didn’t report the incident in the chase. I mentioned my first conversation with my manager. But the focus remained on why I didn’t report the “real incident.” I was written up and told I was lucky to be keeping my leadership position. The young “lady” that had flipped my life around (and several others as it turned out) was fired.
I was crushed. While I realized it was wrong that I didn’t report the incident in the chase, I couldn’t grasp why no one seemed to at least acknowledge my side of the story, my feelings. I wondered what impact the write-up would have on my career (about six months later, HR decided to remove the write up from my file). Two guys blamed me for getting their “piece of ass” fired, saying “only a faggot would do something like that” (yep, more quality humans). Confusion reigned inside my head.
Other than a couple of conversations with my wife, I haven’t talked about this since the HR investigation over three decades ago.
Again, please don’t think I’m comparing my experience with that of a woman getting assaulted. I was bigger and stronger than my attacker. She couldn’t overpower me. At no time did I feel like I was in physical danger. I could have punched her in the face and walked away. Women rarely have those kinds of options.
This experience did, however, screw with my head for quite some time. It gave me some insight into how sexual assault victims are treated “in the system.” I completely get how many women keep this sort of thing quiet, sometimes for decades, sometimes forever. I think this experience helps me understand and empathize.
So What Do We do?
I don’t know what we do. But something needs to be done. We’ve got a problem and no one seems to want to address it. Many don’t even seem to care. Hell, with this “boys will be boys” attitude, we are GIVING BOYS PERMISSION to attack women. No, fucking NO, this is not about boys being boys, testosterone or teenage transgressions. It’s RAPE and ASSAULT. Stop making excuses for this sort of criminal behavior.
Maybe education would help? The RAINN site would be a great place to start. Look at the stats, the policies, the case studies, the testimonials. Dig deep. Try to understand how pervasive this issue is.
Money, in the right places, can’t hurt. RAINN, a local shelter, a local or regional rape hotline, all are probably starving for funds.
Volunteer. All those just mentioned–RAINN, shelters, hotlines–need help.
Maybe just stop and think for a moment about what women go though when they are sexually assaulted. Put your own feelings aside and try a little empathy.
Men, we can do better. Women aren’t here to be objectified, or abused. Stop treating women like second-class citizens, treat them like the equals they are. We’re all human beings for God’s sake, so act like one. Treat people like you’d want to be treated.
We have a cultural problem, and it needs to be fixed. 100 years ago, women couldn’t vote in this country. Men dominated politics, business, sports, entertainment. They still do. It will take awhile to unwind decades of past history and beliefs. But if we do nothing, if we keep acting like Neanderthals when it comes to how we treat over half the population, then we all lose.
Disclosure 1: this post was spawned from a public update on my Facebook profile. Lots of people responded. Some responses were mentioned here. One could go back to my post and connect the quotes here to who said them. Me using quotes from a public Facebook post isn’t any sort of “invasion of privacy,” because, public. You’ve already commented publicly on Facebook, don’t cry about being quoted publicly here. If you don’t like it, don’t comment on public Facebook posts. If you don’t know how to discern public posts from private ones, learn.
Disclosure 2: it was clear that some of the Facebook commenters assumed that I’m a Democrat / Liberal. As one who registered Republican the day they turned 18 and who voted for Regan and both Bushes for POTUS, and has voted for virtually every Republican candidate for local and state office since 1978, and who has donated in the past to the RNC, I find this assumption laughable. For the record, I did publicly announce on July 22, 2016 (the day after Trump’s nomination acceptance speech) that I was leaving the Republican party. Also for the record, neither “Democrat,” “liberal,” “Republican,” or “conservative,” are bad or evil things as many on both sides seem to feel about the other side. And seriously, making assumptions about people you’ve never met is pretty dumb. Give that a rest.