The silence has been broken as many of the victims of sexual harassment, abuse and rape have found the strength and courage to speak and their voices are beginning to be heard by a public who in the past was often guilty of blaming the victim and exonerating the accused. The list of prominent individuals who have been identified as being guilty of using their position and power to violate the humanity of women and men is indeed frightening. Communication, media and movie moguls, actors and elected officials, a doctor who has been convicted of violating his oath and violating young female athletes, and a senate candidate whose protest of innocence raises serious questions. These are only the latest
in a string of scandals that include wide spread abuses of young boys by priests and a football coach
that rocked the Catholic Church and a major university in the past decade.
The silence has been broken, but will the heightened media attention to this problem bring about a change in behavior or will the public soon turn its attention to a new issue in a few weeks? Sexual abuse after all has never been about sex per se. Rather , it has been and is about power and control, dominance and the objectification of the other who is not seen as an equal or viewed as being less human. That perspective stems from a lack of
self-worth and a sense of inadequacy that requires the diminishing of the other in order to feel important. Such deep seeded physiological problems and behaviors are not easily changed, especially when society often turns a blind eye to the problem.
However, the breaking of the silence by persons who have been the victims of sexual harassment,
abuse and rape may help change the culture so that such behavior is no longer viewed as normative,
acceptable or justifiable. Perhaps the stories being told will ignite a permanent wave of indignation
and outrage to the point that inappropriate and uninvited sexual advances will be rejected by the
subject of those advances as well as coworkers, friends and onlookers. The breaking of the silence
may encourage ministers to preach sermons that condemn sexual misconduct and domestic abuse.
Perhaps the breaking of the silence will encourage police to thoroughly investigate accusations of sexual assault without assuming the accuser is lying or that the accused is automatically guilty.
The breaking of the silence may help make lewd and vulgar jokes and comments less acceptable
in the public arena and in the workplace. It is shameful that in so many of the recent cases, those close to the situation claim that the abuse “was an open secret.” Perhaps the breaking of the silence will help everyone understand and appreciate that silence in the presence of evil gives consent. For far too long,
far too many individuals have either been abusers or have ignored the abuse we have witnessed. For too long, too many have made excuses, tolerated inappropriate behavior or blamed the victim. Now
this hidden epidemic of abuse is finally being viewed as a widespread public epidemic that must be stopped.
The time for sexual abuse in all its demonic forms to stop is today. Now that the silence has been
broken we have no place to hide and no opportunity to claim ignorance. We will
either begin the work of moral reclamation and the reaffirmation of the dignity of all people or we are doomed to the dehumanization that is sexual abuse and the accompanying trauma and lifelong effects with which survivors live. My prayer is that we will act in a way that blesses and honors those who dared break the silence.