OPINION: You might want to take these women seriously

Men tumbling from powerful places

What happens when a man is wrongly accused of sexual misconduct?

There really isn’t much data on that.

There is, however, a depressingly massive body of research about what happens to women who are attacked, sexually humiliated or coerced, or molested.

Dysfunction, depression, anxiety, addiction, suicide.

Call it the victim’s hit parade.

Up front: the term “sexual misconduct” refers to everything from an unwanted touch to forcible rape. It’s important to understand there’s a spectrum.

According to Wikipedia – and hey, that’s on the internet so it must be true – the percentage of rape charges determined to be false (as opposed to just unproven) ranges between two and 10 per cent.

On the other hand, Statistics Canada reports that 39 per cent of women will experience sexual violence in their lifetime. Most of these assaults are never reported to police.

Think about those numbers the next time CNN gives airtime to a woman or group of women accusing a high-profile personality of misdeeds.

(Forecasting just off the trend, that will probably be today, or tomorrow at the latest.)

Imagine you are not watching TV, but are on your way to the Penticton casino. Where are you going to put your money?

The recent cascade of allegations about powerful men committing sexual indiscretions or crimes is fuelling an unprecedented national discussion.

And there is nearly a sense of jubilee.

It is addressing suffering too long confined to offices with closed doors, hotel rooms with no wait staff present, the front seats of cars and ultimately the therapist’s couch.

Abuse is difficult and sometimes impossible to prove, as it usually does not occur within Kiss-Cam range at a televised hockey game.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

Since Harvey Weinstein was outed as a creepy-crawly by a host of Hollywood actresses – including Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd and Angelina Jolie – dozens of men have tumbled from high places.

They are primarily from the entertainment industry but are also politicians, media personalities and businessmen – even a famous chef.

Two Quebec celebrities, Gilbert Rozon and Éric Salvail, were recently forced out of the spotlight after being accused of various sleaze and in August Calgary MP Darshan Kang resigned from the Liberal caucus after being accused by two former staffers of sexual impropriety.

Still there is a vocal group that insists on victim blaming and shaming.

Why did you wait years to make this claim?

Why were you even there in the first place?

A segment of the population will always believe the real crime attached to unwelcome sexual aggression is that women complain about it.

An allegation that a man in power – and they always have power, that’s the whole point – has behaved illegally or even inappropriately is a very serious thing.

It could affect his whole life, jeopardize his career, hurt his family and change the way people see and respond to him.

Those are exactly the same things that happen, even today, to a woman when she says she was harassed or worse.

Ironic, eh?


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