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JoelR
JoelR

Stop the Harassment

Norma dreaded Mondays more than most people. That was the day store owner would show up for his weekly visit to inspect this outpost of his domain and require Norma, his local store manager, to service him.

Norma was in her early 40s. She had recently escaped an abusive husband, taking her teenage daughter with her to a small coastal town in the Pacific Northwest at a time when jobs were scarce.

She desperately needed the job. The owner demanded his Monday servicing and Norma knew she had to give it. Despite barely being able to complete it without nausea, she did her job, and received her paycheck. She knew that sexual harassment was unlawful, but she also knew that the boss was wealthy and powerful. She feared nobody would take her word against his.

On that Monday, Norma received some unexpected help from the boss himself. The imposing man arrived at his usual time and lumbered up the stairs to the office above the store, where he perpetrated the harassment. That day, however, rather than entering the office and standing over Norma at her desk, he stopped and stood in the doorway to taunt her. As he stood there leering, he grabbed his crotch and asked her if she was ready. That was a slip, and Norma instantly realized it.

She had studied the camera angles on the surveillance system and knew that one of those camera’s captured that doorway. Norma didn’t escape his abuse that day, but she gained hope for an escape. After the boss left, she checked the video and she saw it. The camera had captured a grainy image of him rubbing himself in the doorway. Then she picked up her phone and called me. I’m an employment law attorney. I sue guys like him. If you are a guy like him, you should pay attention. This is for you.

I have represented far too many women and girls in situations like this.

A 15-year-old girl whose 35-year-old fast food store manager demanded sexual activity, for which he would pay $50… A 16-year old girl whose 42-year-old fast food manager coaxed into getting high and going for a drive in his car, where he forced himself on her… A 19- year-old secretary whose attorney boss required to dress up in a skimpy outfit and visit his condo, where he plied her with a spiked drink and then sexually assaulted her… A 38-year-old single mother whose wealthy boss would require visiting his house on a weekly basis and submit to his demands, while his “mail order bride” made dinner for them downstairs… A 27-year old attorney whose powerful boss required to accompany him on business trips and submit… and many others.

This must stop. These are not consenting partners. These are acts of abuse.

This is not alpha male behavior. Your consenting lover may like you to be aggressive in bed. Adults can make decisions to do these things. A consenting lover has a choice. However, when you are in a power position over a woman, she is in a vulnerable position and has not consented, even if she seems to say yes. She has no choice and is likely in fear of losing her job and worse. If you are in such a power position, you need to exercise grace, not abuse. When you commit abuse, you cause great harm to your victim, her family and friends. How would you feel if a woman you love, your mother, sister, daughter or wife were abused by another man? How would she feel?

If you are a perpetrator of this kind of abuse, you are not only causing great harm to your victims and their loved ones, you are harming yourself, and your loved ones. You may believe that you are powerful and are therefore exercising your power by doing this. But it is not an act of power, it is an act from a place of fear. You may fear that you are unattractive to women. You may fear that you will lose power if you do not commit these heinous acts. You may do it to medicate some underlying trauma of your own. Perhaps you were a victim of abuse in your past. You need to learn how to gain true power.

True power is gained only by acting with integrity.

True power is gained by having empathy toward others, especially those who are disadvantaged. You can learn how to find your true power.

The first thing you must recognize is that you are doing something wrong. Being a habitual harasser is much like being an addict. An addiction is an obsessive compulsion to do something that has negative consequences, and to keep doing it despite those negative consequences. If you are an abuser, you likely have a deep sense of shame and guilt, which are negative emotions that provide more fuel for the addiction.

You know it is wrong, you know you need to change. You can do that.

You can stop injurious behavior and start doing good things. It can be very difficult for an addict to quit by himself. Once you have admitted you have a problem, get help. There are many options. You can see a professional therapist, go to a rehab facility, or join a group of other men who have managed to improve themselves by getting together and working on it. There are many groups of people striving to better themselves. Resources to help addicts and others seeking to change are abundant. Seek them out and make the decision to change.

Every time you are at the crossroads of deciding whether to abuse a woman, you have a choice. Getting help for your problem will provide tools for you to better exercise your choice. Make a choice now to stop. Make a choice to get help and grow stronger in your ability to be a good person.

If you keep exercising the wrong choice, it is likely only a matter of time before you will have to answer for it. Women speaking out in unity. The list of celebrities and other abusers being outed is growing, and will continue to grow. The #metoo movement has reached a critical mass that shines a bright light on all this darkness.

You may think you will continue to get away with it, but the odds of you getting caught increase each time you do it. And your past victims may be encouraged to speak out.

If you have harassed women, you may have some serious challenges coming your way. You may find yourself under siege. You may be exposed and sued. If you are accused of harassment, and you have committed it, consider carefully your response to it. Your deeds will live forever online, but so will that response. If you accept responsibility, and if you have a genuine willingness to change, and do change, redemption is possible.

The victims are not alone.

There are many of us who fight with them. We who fight this fight won’t give up. We will keep fighting, and the movement will grow stronger.

Stop and change before it comes crashing down. Stop abusing women and do it now. Do it for the women in your life that you care about, and that care about you. Do it for your wife, daughter, mother, girlfriend, and friends. Do it for all of them, and all of us. And do it for yourself. It is no way to live.

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