Men Behaving Badly: The Culture of Silence is Broken

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By Dr Dhanpaul Narine

What on earth is happening? Just when you think you have heard the last report of sexual abuse against women a new and unexpected name surfaces. It leaves you stunned and you shake your head in wonder and think ‘how could he?’ After some reflection it begins to sink in and make sense.

If a man has power and influence he thinks he is on another planet. If the man happens to be rich he feels that he can do no wrong. It is said that invariably, he will turn his attention to the opposite sex and before long his wealth and influence will become the recipe to abuse women.

It is called the ‘Weinstein effect’ but it could so easily apply to Bill O’Reilly or Roger Ailes. They too were accused of abusing women. Ailes has left us and O’Reilly was fired but wasn’t there Dominique Kahn before them? The fact is that the list is long with men abusers who are so besotted with power that they throw caution to the winds as they proceed to find the next victim.

The good news is that women are speaking out; they have broken the culture of silence and the world is taking notice in a big way. At least 50 women have come forward and have accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct. The latest is Salma Hayek who stated that Weinstein threatened to kill her.

One of the reasons that women gave for remaining silent is that no one would believe them. Strauss Kahn allegedly told the maid in a Manhattan hotel that he was a powerful man and it would be his word against her. But the maid spoke up and Kahn was exposed. His behavior may very well have cost him the French presidency.

The recent revelations have been shocking. Some of the most famous names in the public arena have been accused of sexual misconduct. Each revelation seems to outdo the next for its vulgarity and the half-hearted apologies that are issued do not cut it. Who would have thought that Dustin Hoffman would be accused of posing naked in front of a woman years ago?

Charlie Rose was so respected that world leaders would queue up to be on his show. His popularity led to a contract on a morning slot on prime-time television. Then came the revelations that Charlie Rose had joined the list of men that abused women.

The first reaction of many persons was one of incredulity. How could he? Charlie appeared so harmless on television and he was always smiling and accommodating. But then you never know and you can’t be certain of a person’s motives. A total of eight women told the ‘Washington Post’ that Charlie Rose made unwanted sexual advances toward them.

The advances included ‘making lewd phone calls, walking around naked in their presence, or groping their breasts, buttocks or genital areas.’ How did Charlie react to these accusations? He apologized for his behavior and said that he was ‘greatly embarrassed.’ He was no longer Charlie being Charlie. He was a predator.

Matt Lauer’s fall from grace was predictable. He was well known in NBC circles as a predator and they allegedly covered it up. Lauer’s on-air interviews are known to belittle women as in the case of Anne Hathaway, and others. His reported machinations to push out Ann Curry is well documented. It is no surprise then when NBC announced that it was firing Lauer as a result of ‘detailed complaint about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.’ Lauer said he was soul-searching as a result of the firing.

Kevin Spacey is also searching deep within and he may have found the answers. He said that he has ‘loved and had romantic encounters with men.’ This came out after Spacey was accused by actor Anthony Rapp of sexual abuse. The abuse is said to have taken place 30 years ago when Rapp was 14 years old.

Spacey was dropped from the show ‘House of Cards’ as over 20 persons have accused him of sexual misconduct. One such accusation was from someone with royal connections. Ari Behn was once married to the daughter of King Harald of Norway. Behn said that in 2007 Spacey groped him at a concert in Norway. The sexual allegations so far have touched on men that are in the entertainment business. But when the name of Mario Vitali reached the headline it took many by surprise.

Vitali has a restaurant empire and is frequently on television explaining the fineries of cooking. The Food Channel aired his show ‘Molto Mario’ for eight years and was planning to relaunch it next year. But four women accused Vitali of ‘inappropriate touching.’ He apologized and said that, ‘much of the behavior described does, in fact, match up with the ways I have acted.’

This brings us to the politicians. There were two high profile departures from Washington and one rejection at the polls. Al Franken resigned his seat from the Senate without issuing a real apology. He left the Senate a bitter man saying that some ‘of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others I remember differently.’

Franken found support from former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer who said that, ‘ Franken should not have resigned. His fate should have been left to the people of Minnesota.’ In the case of Rep. John Conyers of Michigan the Democrats at first seemed to want to protect him. But as public criticisms became more open they were forced to distance themselves from him.

In late November 2017, Nancy Pelosi was calling Conyers ‘an icon in our country.’ She wanted the Ethics Committee to review allegations of sexual misconduct against Conyers. Pelosi quickly changed her position as the criticism increased and in fact publicly called upon Conyers to resign. He responded by saying that he was retiring and that his legacy would be carried on in the name of his children. It is difficult to see how this would happen with the allegations of sexual misconduct swirling around him.

Russell Simmons and Tavis Smiley are working hard to fight off allegations of sexual misconduct. But there is another famous predator and he is in the White House. The year 2018 will see lawsuits flying in his direction and he may even be subpoenaed to appear in court to answer them.

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The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the THE WEST INDIAN.

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