Am I Supporting a Sexual Predator’s Craft?
A few weeks back my wife shared the story of her previous day’s visit to a doctor. She relayed it in an innocuous fashion, but it was clear the situation unsettled her. Just not in the way that I expected. It was my blood pressure rising, not hers. And my righteous lizard brain moving into action.
It was her second visit to this doctor. The first time left her less than impressed. He was terse and unforgiving, identifying her complaints as trivial. Accusing her of seeking something to blame other than herself. He sent her for tests anyhow, with the receipt of said test results prompting the second visit.
As the appointment wound down and she turned to leave, the good doctor made a point of addressing her attire. She was wearing pants, and he noted in a good-humored tone that Colombian men prefer to see women in skirts. And would she be so kind as to wear one to the next appointment (not that there would be one).
My wife had built her case of dislike for this doctor. His words and attitude angered her and also made her uncomfortable. But to my dismay, she only found his skirt comments akin to a mild, non-threatening joke. Something men here — well, in too many places — do. Just a noteworthy story to share with her husband. Passing time in after-work conversation. Sexual harassment didn’t cross her mind or lips. I was the one to utter that phrase.
A phrase which took her aback. And elicited the response that he wasn’t inappropriate when examining her. Nonetheless I couldn’t help but delve into a monologue replete with rhetorical questions.
¨What if he’s just experimenting, and soon expands his ¨repertoire?¨
¨What if physical harassment is already part of his game and it was your lucky day?¨ Not enough time, not his type, etc…
¨How many others has he done this to?¨
¨How long can we allow him to abuse his position of authority?¨
My wife was silent, contemplating a perspective she hadn’t even imagined. Or maybe just regretting she ever told me in the first place. I do have a way of getting on my soap box… Either way my mission bell rung. Justice was in order, and a predator needed stopping before one more woman could be violated. She agreed to consider filing a complaint. But my expectations were low at best, if her body language was any sign.
The topic passed without another word spoken. It seemed inappropriate to file a complaint myself. I would need to identify my wife and she likely wouldn’t have supported this action. My mind turned to thoughts about Latin American culture allowing men to behave like this. And how it corrupted people like my wife to brush it aside. And then Bill Cosby’s smirk came into focus. Perspective returned, about Latino men that is. That this behaviour is universal cannot be one’s reason to remain idle. The world wasn’t changed by men and women sitting on the sidelines of life.
And yet, in this moment, that’s me on the sidelines too. Have I failed? Will I see this doctor in the headlines in a few weeks/months/years time? If it is a failure, it wouldn’t be my first.
Years back riding the Toronto subway, I watched a burly, 50ish year old man ply his trade. Two pre-teen schoolgirls were running up and down the otherwise empty car. Pretending to be a police officer, the man ordered the girls to stop. They then complied with his order to give their names and telephone numbers. I sat motionless, silent. My excuse: my right arm in a sling, and hauling a filing box home too. Fearing more for my own safety in that physical state, I remained paralyzed. The emergency alarm untouched, though just a few feet away. The man exited at the next station with a smirk worthy of Bill Cosby, tucking his note pad into his breast pocket. Strutting onto the platform as if he hit the trifecta at the track.
I once confided this story in a close friend. Nobody else. Ever. Likely seeking to assuage my guilt. And to make some sense of my place and purpose in this world. And so here it is in public, laid bare. My fear must have abated. Replaced with the motivation to effect change. Will it be in service of my wife and possible countless others harassed by this doctor? How to proceed? Is it possible to enlist my wife’s participation? If not, am I just supporting the craft of a sexual predator?