#MeToo’s Border Wall

Michael Lissack
Jan 3 · 4 min read

Many days into a government shutdown it is apparent that improving border security is not the issue. Outrage over a potent symbol: the “wall” is the name of the game.

Months into a supposed period of heightened awareness it is also apparent that preventing sexual harassment and assaults is not the issue. Outrage over a potent symbol: men behaving badly is the name of the game.

The Border Wall is more about outrage than betterment.

So too with #MeToo.

Donald Trump meet Tarana Burke and Alyssa Milano.

All three have learned the potent power of using the media to evoke outrage. And therein lies the true name of this game: power.

Prevention is not power; it is merely powerful.

Prevention helps thousands or millions. Power draws the attention of thousands or millions.

The politicians and the media — they like attention.

The people? They would prefer help.

Help is readily available, but those interested in power, attention, and outrage reject it. Help would erode their claims to power. For both #MeToo and the border wall.

More than 80% of illegal immigrants came here legally. A wall would not have stopped them.

More than 95% of sexual assaults are done by someone the victim knows. Awareness campaigns are ineffective when the perpetrator cannot picture themselves as being one.

In both cases what enables the crime is a sense of entitlement, be it for aliens who decide they are entitled to stay here or perpetrators who decide they are entitled to “do things” to the victim of their sexual desires.

Prevention is about disturbing that sense of entitlement.

Prevention of all is impossible. But prevention of “some”? That is easy.

With illegal immigration, we could stop some large percentage by requiring that ALL visitors register with the local police once every thirty days. Go to the police station get a postcard stamped and mail it to the State Department. That both helps create a record of where the visitors have been (useful for tracking them via social media) and disrupts the sense of entitlement by reminding them they are here with ‘permission’ and not as a ‘right.’ Some percentage of those who would have stayed will go home. The cost is minimal — funding the security ink stamps for the local police. Not $5 billion or more. Perhaps $10 million.

With sexual assault, the sense of entitlement is harder to break, but then again Harvey Weinstein taught us the secret: sexual assault perpetrators not only feel entitled to their victims’ bodies but also to their victims’ continued silence. This second sense of entitlement is much easier to break.

For visitor postcards substitute a smartphone app. If that app is one that allows victims to confidentially tell their story, preserve the recording, and keep control over when and if it ever released to the authorities, it can counter the perpetrators desire to ensure silence. All it will EVER take is the mention of “I made a video” to the police, and the story will be told. Silence can no longer be controlled by the perpetrator. The sense of entitlement is broken. Those perpetrators who are cognizant of their fear of the story getting out (e.g., what we all have read about Harvey Weinstein) will be restrained. Some large percentage of the problem will be prevented.

Postcards are easy to imagine. The app I described exists. The non-profit I ran for three years (see http://projectguardrail.org) built and tested several beta versions. At one point we had almost 50,000 users. Our beta test at a small college went very well. But the realities of prevention ran into the politics of outrage. The money dried up. We had to close. The apps and their intellectual property are now in the public domain.

We went to all the prominent #MeToo funders and spokespersons looking for help but were met with silence. We spent a year talking with the Match Group and Tinder (seems like a good fit does it not) and were rejected as not fitting with their business plan. (Prevention seldom fits with people’s business plans.) Worse, we were strung along so that their senior executives could claim to be “investigating” new solutions when in reality we were a cover for — — entitled silence.

We went to the people in charge of the $20 million CBS put up in response to the Les Moonves mess. Rejected because we were not established and were not focused on victims (i.e.. those who had already been assaulted). Instead, we were focused on preventing future victims. No victims, no outrage. That’s politics.

The postcards will work. But there is little symbolism in a postcard. Not when compared to a “beautiful wall.”

The app works. But there is no room for outrage when distributing an app. Prevention is about people, not power.

Our failure with the app is not alone. Other efforts at prevention have met similar fates. #MeToo is about outrage and power. Just like the border wall.
At the expense of thousands if not millions of disrupted lives.

So much for America being Great.

Prevention is part of greatness.

Outrage … not so much.

Project Guardrail can still be made a reality. Hundreds of thousands of sexual assaults can be prevented.

Knock down the wall between power and prevention.

Join in and say #MeToo to helping.

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