Women Being Heard
What happens when a woman shares something that is intimate, painful and confusing? What do we say to girls and women who talk about how their boundaries were violated and their safety compromised? How do we handle an accusation that a man used intimidation, coercion, verbal threats or physical violence to assert his power or get sexual gratification from a female-identified person?
Whether these utterances are to friends and family, to law enforcement or online, given our history of shaming, victim-blaming and down-playing women's experiences, it seems that we feel it is easier to not listen to or believe women. Responsibility is rarely placed on the accused and if it is, it is after weeks, months, sometimes decades that these men experience any consequences.
When we deny women the power that comes from believing that they have been victimized, what are we saying to men who use positions of power to perpetuate female subjugation?What are we telling the men who work with them, look up to them? What is the result of turning a blind eye/ear when a man shares a story of coercion, rape or sexual assault?
If we took women at their word and believed every allegation they brought forward, more women would speak up and others could be spared. We don't live in that world yet. Until we unequivocally believe women first, the cycle of abuse will continue. Men will continue to believe that their words are more important and that their actions will have little to no immediate repercussions. Men are not wrong for feeling entitled to treat women any way they want and women are not wrong for staying silent because we have created a society where both of these behaviors are rewarded.
The first step in undoing what centuries of biased and damaging reinforcement of the abuse of women has done is to listen to girls and women. The way forward is to believe girls and women.
Book recommendation: For sobering data about the state of gender inequality throughout the world, read Rebecca Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me.