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What We Men Must Do!

Today’s blog is a call to action for all men!

It seems so long ago now, but back in the late 1970s a number of us in the domestic violence, child sexual abuse and sexual assault fields figured out that just working with the victims of abuse was only half the problem. If we didn’t start working with the offenders, we could never succeed at prevention efforts. Riffing off this concept, we can apply the same principle to male privilege and misogyny (woman-hating).

So many of us were horrified when Donald Trump’s infamous bus video surfaced before the election last year. He took male privilege and misogyny to the extreme with his sense of total entitlement to grope and kiss women without their permission. Because it is my field, I followed closely the stories of the twelve women who came forward to tell their stories of his abuse—from unwanted groping and aggressive sexual advances to walking unannounced into the dressing room of the Miss Teen Universe contestants. When I heard their stories, I knew they were telling the truth. As a professional in the field these past 47 years, these are stories I have heard a thousand times over. Just like these twelve women, the storytellers were filled with a sense of tearful shame, fear and confusion; wondering if somehow they had caused the advance, worrying if it was their fault, afraid to come forward for fear of being disbelieved or being judged a slut. And, of course, like all offenders, Trump denied the allegations and ridiculed the women, even threatening to sue them (which he never did). This is despite the fact he bragged about his exploits on the bus video, on the Howard Stern Show more than once, and on other venues such as The Apprentice outtakes. So, I am still incredulous how any husband, woman or parent of a daughter could have voted for him. Read and listen to these women’s stories. If you are a woman he considered attractive, do you think you would be safe with him alone? If you are a man, would your wife or your daughter? His form of sexual addiction is a compulsive disorder and he obviously has trouble stopping the impulse.

Yet, I am not here to indict Donald Trump. The Donald is only the tip of a male iceberg of assumed male privilege. You see, there is not one woman I know over the age of 16--relative, friend or counseling client--who has not been aggressively sexually groped or even assaulted at least once in her life. Think about that. Not one woman. The statistics are frightening and disgusting. One in five women will be raped sometime in their lifetime. One in four children will be molested, mostly by men (only 25% of offenders are women). In Asia, one study showed that ten percent (10%) of men admitted they had raped a woman. Twenty-five percent (25%) of women will be physically abused by a significant other. These are our wives, sisters, mothers, aunts, grandmothers, daughters, nieces, and friends who are victimized by a male patriarchy several millennia old. It is not so long ago, even in this country, where women were considered to be the property of their husbands. We did not outlaw marital rape in this country until the 1990s. If you can believe it, before that, a husband could legally rape his wife, and, in the State of Ohio, beat her until that law was overturned in 1965. Historically, armies routinely sacked, looted and raped their way through conquered cities and countries (read Against Our Will by Susan Brownmiller). This was the norm, and, still today, in some places in the world, is still the norm.

I am sadly reminded of the story of Tina Mancini. Some 25 years ago she was a stripper at a local Broward County strip joint. She committed suicide. The subsequent investigation discovered she was only 15 years old. The investigators were horrified to find out that her mother would sit in the back of the bar and watch her daughter dance, then observe Tina enticing men to buy drinks when she sat with them. Many times they would touch and fondle her while her mother watched. Then, Tina would dutifully take her tips over to Mom who would put them in a shoebox that she carried on her lap. The mother was successfully charged with moral neglect, but what about all those men who ogled a 15 year old while dancing or touched her as she sat next to them? I am sure they would claim she looked older than 15, as if that made it better. Moreover, how many of them had girlfriends or wives? How many had teenage daughters?

After the Donald Trump bus video, many people excused it as just locker room talk. I’ve been in a lot of locker rooms, and his comments were still over the top. Nevertheless, familiar to most men, there is a good old boy, weird group male bonding ritual of sexually commenting on women. “Yeah, I’d do her in a heartbeat.” “Look at the pair on her!” “What a piece!” And so on, as if she is a piece of meat. Years ago, one of my employees and I were coming up the elevator of the Dade County Courthouse. She was quite attractive. A rather sleazy-looking lawyer in his fancy pinstripe suit looked over at her and casually said, “I bet you’re the kind of classy woman who doesn’t wear panties.” She ignored him. I stared at him aghast. Incensed, I later asked why she didn’t say anything. She answered, “Tom, if I bothered to respond to every one of the guys who said something like that, I’d spend half my day telling people off.” I started to pay attention. I began to notice that just walking down the street with my girlfriend and women co-workers how many stares and comments they received. “Hey, baby you can sit in my driver’s seat anytime,” some guy yells in Spanish as he almost runs off the road staring at them. I saw a whole, new side of the world I had never noticed before, although I know this is hardly news to my women friends. They can’t sit on a bus bench, stop at a stoplight, walk down the street without frequently being accosted by some male who must delusionally believe they appreciate the unwanted attention he gives them.

I imagine our women friends are a bit tired of having to carry the load on this issue all by themselves. This is where we men must take a stand and call out our brothers who verbally or physically mistreat or violate a woman, even calling out the sexist jokes we’re supposed to laugh at or choosing to