Today’s Monday Musing is a combo post on Domestic Violence and Sexual Harassment/Abuse. With all the talk about sexual harassment on social media and the news right now, I wanted to address it a little. I also wanted to talk a little about the #whyshestayed conversation that was going on a few years ago as I think that there are similarities between that conversation and the current #metoo conversation.
I’ll start by saying that sexual abuse and domestic abuse are often interconnected. It is not uncommon for an abuser to practice a form of sexual harassment. Many abusers limit their partners attire due to perceived sexual misconduct. Many of them also accuse their partners of things like flirting as a reason for the abuse. Many abusers also are sexually abusive, ie: don’t take no for an answer. Obviously, domestic violence is different from sexual harassment as it happens in a committed relationship instead of just any relationship, but I strongly believe that the incidences of both happening are interconnected. If we don’t acknowledge sexual harassment as a culture, then why are we surprised that people don’t want to acknowledge domestic violence?
The other thing I believe is significant when it comes to the interconnection between Sexual Harassment/Abuse and Domestic Violence is how we react to the victims coming forward. In both cases, many people are afraid to come forward because they know that they will have to be on the defensive even though they DID NOTHING WRONG. NO ONE ever asks for any kind of harassment or abuse. NO ONE asks to feel shameful or like they are only valued for their sexuality. NO ONE asks to be hit or ridiculed because they wore something that made them feel good or smiled at someone who was nice to them. Yes, women (and men) might dress in clothes that some consider revealing or flirtatious, but that does not mean that someone has to the right to treat them like a sex object. e all have different ideas of what is considered sexual attire. For some people, it is exactly the opposite of most peoples idea of revealing. For others, it is as simple as an outfit that fits well. Abusers and harassers generally don’t need any more provocation that someone who fits their idea of a victim.
I do believe there are some ways we can help change these realities for the next generations though. As the mother of two daughters, the first one I firmly believe in is to STOP expecting our teenage girls to do things that to keep teenage boys from noticing them. It is NOT a teenage girls responsibility to keep her male counterparts from noticing her breasts, whatever size they might be. It is also virtually impossible for her to do that, as there actually is a scientific reason for a pubescent male to react to that. Believe it or not, the sexual urges that most experience for the first time in adolescent EXIST TO KEEP OUR SPECIES ALIVE. We can teach our children, male and female, how to respect each other, though. The best way to do that is to practice that same kind of respect for ALL of our counterparts, regardless of GENDER. When we teach our children to feel shameful of their bodies, or genders, we keep the cycle of harassment and abuse going. If we teach them that one gender is better or more powerful than the other, we create the believe that they do not deserve the same level of respect as someone else. When we judge someone for how they dress instead of their brain or heart, we create the idea that gender is what gives you power. Ironically, if we were to look at which gender is biologically more powerful, it would probably be females. They may not be physically stronger, but they generally have higher pain thresholds, live longer, and multitask more efficiently than men, and oh yeah, we are still essential in creating the next generation.
I hate to say it, but honestly, is it really men that keep things like abuse and harassment going, or is it women? If we were to really take the time to focus on who judges women more for how they dress or how they act around the opposite sex, would it really be men, or would it be mostly women? I don’t believe I actually know a man who would ever say that a woman asked to be harassed or abused because of how she looked. Maybe, it’s just that I have mostly known men that actually respect women, or maybe we don’t give most men nearly enough credit. Obviously, there are those men out there who feel a need to harass or abuse women, but are they really the majority?
In closing, I ask everyone, no matter their gender to treat others with respect and dignity. I also ask everyone to talk to each other, and maybe even more importantly to their children about what respect really means. The more we stay silent and keep these things secret, the more they will continue.