Cosby, Kavanaugh, and our own Commander in Chief. These men are just a few of the hundreds of people facing allegations of sexual harassment. But in order to stand by the victims of sexual assault, we have to debunk the myths that allow abusers to walk free again and again.
The #MeToo movement has brought sexual harassment to light in recent months. Celebrities, churchgoers, and laypeople alike are speaking out as victims and putting a new, more respectful face on interpersonal relationships.
No doubt dating has been on a moral roller coaster for the past 100 years. We’ve shifted from supervised courting to open relationships. The movement toward sexual respect is just what our world needs right now. Victims deserve to be heard, and to feel safe, maybe for the first time in a long time.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Regardless of your dating status, you deserve respect from everyone you meet.
If anyone does anything to make you feel uncomfortable, you’re allowed to ask them to stop. If they don’t, that’s harassment.
Sometimes people fear being rude, facing ridicule, or burning bridges. Don’t. Once you know your views on sex, stick to them. There is absolutely no need to bend to someone else’s expectations in the dating world or otherwise. You deserve someone who respects and embraces your views.
As you move forward in your relationships, keep in mind these sexual harassment myths and protect yourself from abusers that may feel like they “did nothing wrong.”
1. Can’t you take a compliment?
“You look hot.”
“I’d love to get into those jeans.”
Catcalls and inappropriate comments like these are similar to unsolicited advice: ineffective and unwelcome. Even if the assaulter means well, don’t hesitate to let them know that you feel uncomfortable.
The number one take-away here is that not all harassment has ill intent. Some people mean well, but don’t realize that their words are inappropriate. Others are unaware of the effect they have on people. Speak up and let them know that they crossed the line. If the abuse continues, distance yourself from this person and report their behavior if possible.
2. I was only joking
This is a thinly veiled attempt for abusers to use when their advances are not well received. See right through it, every time.
Even if the other person really does intend to be funny, statements that are tasteless, lewd, cruel or unnecessarily sexual aren’t always welcome. You’re allowed to feel uncomfortable when someone makes a lewd comment, joking or not. You’re also allowed to voice your discomfort and receive a respectful response in return.
Anyone who flies off the handle when you express your discomfort can just show themselves out the door.
3. I don’t swing that way
The most familiar dynamic for sexual harassment is male versus female. Truth be told, anyone can be a harasser and anyone can be victim. A straight female might touch a male inappropriately on a date or make aggressive comments to another female in the workplace. It’s still harassment.
Oftentimes, harassment is more about power than sexuality. Case in point: he-man actor and genuinely good person Terry Crews recently spoke before the senate in regards to the assault he experienced at the hands of a Hollywood exec. In short, the agent grabbed Crews by the genitals and told him who was boss.
Despite his reputation for extreme strength, the assault shook Crews and stuck with him, compelling him to stand up for sexual assault victims publicly.
4. You were asking for it
I once heard an analogy that justified this excuse: If a store owner forgets to lock up in the night and comes back in the morning to find that the store has been cleared out, then he’s at fault for the crime. He should have locked the store.
Do I even need to say it? Not true! I am a full grown adult and I am perfectly capable of walking past a store without stealing anything from it, even if it is unlocked and unsupervised. I know that it’s wrong to take something that’s not mine. The same goes for sexuality. No one may touch another’s body without express permission. It’s as simple as that.
We’re all called to be modest in the way we dress and approach others, but the way you dress, talk, and even flirt does NOT justify sexual violence. Period.
5. I never touched him/her
The idea that sexually harassment is equivalent to rape may be a hold over from previous generations, but it’s simply not true. While rape is a form sexual violence, it’s only one way to harm someone sexually.
Harassment can be physical, verbal, or emotional. Just because someone kept their hands off your body doesn’t mean their behavior was appropriate or welcome.
6. Boys will be boys
The myth that boys have urges they cannot control is just that: a myth.
Some men may be more sexually motivated than women, but that’s not true of everyone. More importantly, everyone has freedom of choice. Self control is essential in every avenue of life, and it’s about time that we start teaching and enforcing it. There are absolutely no excuses.
7. I was just flirting
If someone brushes off their own behavior as an attempt at flirting, they’re doing it wrong. Plain and simple.
Making someone feel sexually attacked is not the right way to start a relationship. In fact, it’s not the right way to do anything. Rather, it’s harmful and needs immediate correction.
8. It won’t happen again
We are of the opinion that this excuse is used (and accepted!) way too often in relationships. It’s a conversation that creates a vortex of abuse that’s unbelievable difficult to escape.
There’s no way to know what will happen tomorrow, next week or a year from now. Don’t wait for it to be “serious enough” to step away. Distance yourself now, because you deserve a relationship that is free and joyful and life-giving.
9. I was drunk
Alcohol is a drug like any other. Just because it’s more socially acceptable than illegal drugs does not mean that it can be used without consequences.
It’s important to realize that alcohol dulls inhibitions. Some people use this as a means of excusing inappropriate behavior, but that’s not fair to victims. Self control is essential.
10. It wasn’t sexual
Wait. Sexual assault isn’t always sexual? It’s true. Behavior that is demeaning to someone because of their gender or sexual orientation is another means of sexual violence.
For example, calling a woman “sweetie pie” in the workplace can be a form of harassment. So can ridiculing a man for showing emotion. Many people feel that this is a bit of overkill and that people just need to “toughen up,” but this is an opportunity for us to build a climate of respect between genders.
With all the violence and chaos in the world right now, a movement for sexual respect is just what we need. Let’s welcome it with joy!