Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

When #MeToo Hits Close to Home

It’s easy to criticize Harvey Weinstein. Or Louis C.K. Or Johnny Depp. But what about when it’s someone you know? Someone from whom you benefit? Someone you just can’t believe would do such thing?

You know someone who has raped someone. You know someone who’s sexually harassed someone. Sorry, but you do.

Cognitive bias often prevents people from conceptualizing what they see as violence, even if they would readily describe it that way when a celebrity does it. It’s challenging to do that when it’s close to home.

I have seen this in action.

As a survivor with friends who also are survivors, I have heard countless people justify abusive behavior and assault as “just a misunderstanding” because “he’s really nice, just a little mixed up” or “she would never do something like that, but you know, it takes two to tango.”

No. Lots of people are mixed up. Most of those people don’t stalk others, violate them when they’re asleep, or threaten to kill them.

Moreover, sexual violence, partner abuse, and bullying are all vastly underreported, scientists say. Why? Because the shame of being a victim is still greater than that of being a perpetrator.

Victims always have to answer for their sins, even if the crime is understandable. “She should have known about him.” “He should have been more careful.”

And yet, even if the abuser is “known” to be a creep, the enablers don’t want any responsibility. “He’s never been abusive toward meeeeee.”

Good for fucking you.

When people challenge others for being enablers, the response is defensive. “I would never support an abuser! I’ve been abused myself!”

We live in a world in which it is fashionable to question victims, while claiming victimhood for ourselves.

The lesson we should all take from #MeToo is that too many people ask what the victim did rather than why the perpetrator did it.

This is due to the Just World Hypothesis, which holds that the world is innately just and fair, ruled by a moral compass, and therefore any bad action must be precipitated by another bad action. Therefore, any victim of sexual harassment or bullying must have done something to cause it.

But this simply isn’t true. Anyone can be a victim. Anyone can be an abuser. Given this equal playing field, we should only be questioning the motives and actions of one of the two.

I think it’s obvious which one.

We must stand up to cases of sexual violence, even if it’s perpetuated by people we know. Even harder, we must stand up to cases of enabling such behavior, as well as those who gaslight victims.

Writer by day, circus artist by night. I write about art, media, culture, health, science, and where they all meet. Join my list:

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