Cartier: Claims of sexual harassment devalue stories of those who have been truly molested (column)
Rape and sexual abuse are serious matters. And while they can occur from a woman to a man, generally, it is the woman who is the victim, because it is often the man who is in power and physically stronger. The majority of recent accusations have been from women.
True abuse must be taken seriously; we must also realize that there is a difference between inappropriate behavior and abusive actions. Sexual misconduct covers a wide spectrum, and accusations of abuse are the type that even if proven innocent, the accused is tainted for life; thus claims must be carefully considered.
If every sexual comment is classified as abuse, then it devalues those who have been truly molested. There isn’t a woman alive who hasn’t, at some point, been the recipient of an undesired approach by a man, but at what point does it go from flirtation to harassment? And the definition is not limited to physical contact.
Is harassment location based? Is work off limits? What if that is the only place where you’re likely to meet someone with similar interests? Is corporate position a limitation? Does that mean you are only allowed to mingle with those who share your title because anyone below can accuse you of harassment, and those above you suffer the same vulnerability? There is a huge difference between expressing an interest in a colleague and demanding sexual favors as part of their job description.
We must also consider that men and women tend to process information and communicate differently. Throughout history, we have joked about those differences. In fact, Dr. John Gray wrote a best-selling book called “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” in an attempt to bridge that gap. No luck. Men tend to be blunt, and women tend to appreciate subtlety; both can cause misinterpretation and get them into trouble. Is it harassment or stupidity? Does intent matter?
There are also risks in personal relationships. Intent and clarity are huge factors in the dating scene. What happens when an initial connection becomes intimate and one person is expecting it to be casual, while the other views it as the beginning of an exclusive relationship? For both men and women, they must be cautious that an initial flirtation is not mistaken for an invitation to something more or, if casually intimate, misconstrued as a declaration of monogamous, long-term commitment.
Those who are emotionally unstable can use rape and sexual abuse as strong weapons. A rejection by an uninterested guy can turn into retribution by a girl who wanted more, even if the encounter was mutually consensual. Some charges are presumed guilty until proven innocent (Duke lacrosse).
We raise our girls to be careful of sexual predators; however, we must also protect our boys from equally vulnerable circumstances. They must always be respectful and understand that no means no; don’t assume she is “playing hard to get.” Movies are great at promoting that fallacy. Misinterpretation could dramatically change their lives forever, regardless of intent.
A scripted stage kiss, delivered in an inappropriate manner, it is not sexual harassment; it is simply inappropriate. When traveling with a bunch of guys in a battle zone, expect that you will be teased in equal fashion, regardless of gender; otherwise, travel separately.
In Hollywood, often meetings are conducted in hotel rooms or homes due to travel schedules and for privacy of negotiations; being drugged and raped is an absolutely inexcusable crime. However, when a producer explicitly demands a sexual favor for a movie role, walk out and move on to the next audition. If you deliver and receive the role, then unless you are a minor, you have accepted that exchange as valid and cannot complain decades later that you were abused, because the minute you said yes, you became a willing participant, even if the proposal was inappropriate and disgusting.
Given the current volume of sexual harassment claims, nearly every woman alive would qualify for the hashtag #MeToo. The best way to protect those who have been sexually abused is to not bury their genuine tragedy in a sea of other frivolous claims. Our hearts are with those who have been truly victimized.
Jacqueline Cartier is a political and corporate consultant in Colorado and Washington, D.C. For further information, visit http://www.cartierwinningimages.com. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.