The Heights Herald

Americans finally say, no more

Josh Grover, Staff Writer

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Americans wonder who will be next on the growing list of sexual harassment cases. As public figures face accusations and terminations by employers for past deeds, some wonder about the legitimacy of these claims and why it has taken victims so long to come forward. Perhaps we are seeing a paradigm shift in moral and ethical accountability.

Sexual harassment is not a new issue; it has plagued our culture for decades. Some of the cases that have been exposed happened 50 years ago. The Bill Cosby incidents are a prime example. Some of his cases date back to 1965 with the alleged victims coming forward in 2015.

While sexual harassment has never been acceptable, in the past, it was tolerated or ignored. It became the invisible crime, the proverbial sweeping it under the rug. The old adage “boys will be boys” dismissed the deplorable behavior.

“It’s made into such a big deal that you have to make a decision: Do you want to ruin your career? Do you want this to be everything that you end up being about?” Ms. Jane Park stated to the New York Times in regards to her experience with sexual harassment in the workplace.

Most perpetrators are employers or people in a position of authority over the victim.

“People at the top stay at the top, and they understand each other. They have vouched and, more importantly, covered for each other,” Bea Arthur told CNN in an interview discussing sexual harassment in the workplace.

The list of accused offenders is startling. Many of these men were held in high esteem, respected and admired for their talents and contributions. Perhaps their position and influence protected them from exposure. Alarmingly, more are outed on, what seems to be, a daily basis.

The fact that even this nation’s leader has faced allegations of sexual harassment sends a clear message to the world that America is morally and ethically bankrupt.

The media clambers to explore the mishandling of past situations and is shedding light on case after case. Turn on any major news channel and the most recent discoveries of harassment and cover-up will be at the top of the news feed. In these troubled times, media exploitation is driving societal change.

As more victims come forward, others gain the courage to stand up to their offenders and the system, regardless of when the situation occurred. Terry Crews, an actor and former NFL player, was sexually assaulted by a Hollywood executive at a party back in 2016. He has since filed a police report and named his alleged attacker, Adam Venit, on Good Morning America.

The #MeToo movement has encouraged any victim of sexual harassment or sexual assault to post the hashtag on social media as a way of sharing their story and uncovering how widespread this travesty has become.

While the public has a right to be outraged, people must also pause to consider the validity of the accusations. According to the National Sexual Violence Center, false accusations make up between two and ten percent of reported cases. Those false reports can be just as detrimental to the well-being of the accused offender. This is the predicament singer Conor Oberst found himself in when he was falsely accused of raping a woman in 2003. News of the allegation spread across social media and affected his work and mental health.

“To have the whole world think that was true about me just did a number on my psyche,” Oberst stated to “Noisey” in an interview regarding his experience.

Instances like this cause people to look at other cases suspiciously, questioning if the harassment really took place at all. It can also lead to victim blaming. Still, it does not erase this growing issue in our country.

While sexual harassment offenses have often been hidden in the past, they are now being dragged into the spotlight where they belong. What might have been ignored or allowed before is no longer tolerated. Offenders will need to own up and pay for past transgressions. Perhaps this shift in social awareness will also act as a deterrent, and America can clean up its sullied image

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