If You See Something, Say Something

Another powerful man. One who can make and break careers. A powerful man using his power to sexually assault and harass women. Women who believe that their futures are in the hands of this powerful man. So they go to his hotel room, even though it feels wrong. They are confronted by his nakedness, but they say nothing. He asks them for massages. He lewdly suggests that they shower with him. He rapes them. But they say nothing, because who will believe them? And even if they are believed, he holds all the power; and angering him could mean your career is dead in the water before it even starts. And you’ve made so many sacrifices to get here, what’s one more?

Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein. All powerful men. All allegedly have used their power to dominate and abuse women. And for the record, sexual assault and rape have nothing to do with sex. They are tools of control and power. And I don’t care if the abuser is a Democrat, Republican, Independent or Anarchist. Rape and abuse are just that, rape and abuse.

And what about the people who have surrounded these powerful men? Who feed them their daily supply of women. Who procure sedatives, hush money, and other tools to silence the victims. They are also beholden to the abuser and their careers depend upon staying silent. So they look the other way and kid themselves that no one is really being hurt here — it’s a win/win for everyone. She gets the role and he gets to feel powerful.

Enough. When you see something, say something. And when someone says something, listen.

Nothing will ever change until women’s voices are heard. Women need to be able to speak up and know justice will be served when they do. Whether it’s a college campus, a TV newsroom or a Beverly Hills hotel, women are first abused by the sexual predator and then the agencies that are supposed to seek justice, turn the other way. Our Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, and Donald Trump are busy rolling back protections under Title IX. Workplace sexual harassment violates Title VII, but arbitration clauses often make those protections meaningless.

As the Gretchen Carlson case showed, an employment contract with an arbitration clause means that a woman has signed away her right to a jury trial. Women are far less likely to win arbitration cases than they are to win jury trials. Then, even if a woman does prevail in arbitration, she is often under a nondisclosure agreement. Her inability to talk about what happened allows the sexual predator to continue his ways without fear of exposure. Plus his company is not motivated to dismiss him; it stays their dirty little secret.

We must change the culture on campuses and in the workplace. Employees and students must be made aware of the problem so that they know what they are witnessing. Then they must be encouraged to come forward with what they know. The sexual predator must be called out for his abuse not just by his victim, but by anyone who knows what is happening. There are no innocent bystanders. If you see something, say something.