I’m going to say something that might be jarring for most of you to hear, especially men. Most men are guilty of some form of sexual harassment or assault.
Don’t believe me? Okay, let’s look at some statistics.
One in five women has experienced sexual assault. One in three rape victims says they experienced that assault between the ages of 11-17. One in eight rape victims reported that the event happened before the age of 10.
Add to that the fact that at least 81% of women have experienced sexual harassment, and you’ll begin to see my point.
So then you say, “Well then, I assume you think you’re on the other side of that, right? Not all men, right? Of course, you think you’re preaching to the evil-doers who have done all of this, while you think you’re scot-free.”
To that, I’ll say this: I don’t know. Though, we’ll circle back to this because, to be honest, there’s more to explain.
Now, obviously, 81% of women being sexually harassed doesn’t mean that 81% of men are responsible for the harassment, and though I’ve looked, there’s really no reliable statistic on this, because who’s going to self-report that they have sexually harassed women?
Heck, I think it’d be fair to say that most men who regularly sexually harass women aren’t even aware that they’re doing it. They just think they’re flirting.
In fact, The Guardian conducted a study two years ago that asked “out of every 100 women in [your country] how many do you think say they have experienced any form of sexual harassment since the age of 15?”
Across the board, the numbers guessed by participants from across Europe and America were far below the actual reported numbers. With most Americans guessing that 50% of women had been sexually harassed, a difference of 30%.
Worse yet, in Denmark, a country normally seen as a bastion for progressive values, participants guessed that roughly 36% of women were sexually harassed, while the actual numbers were at 80%.
So, where does that leave us? Well, I’d say it leaves us with a bit of a disconnect, right? And now, before you start to say, well, it’s just women over-reporting it, let me tell you this:
The fact is, speaking up carries consequences for a lot of these women. In most cases, it can mean them losing their job or experiencing a workplace hell that might make them leave their job. Add to that the stigma and the fact that most people assume that victims of sexual assault or sexual harassment will react in a certain way, like frightened individuals, and you’ve opened a new, bigger problem.
But the truth is, in most cases, victims of sexual assault know the person who assaulted them and often remain close to that person after the fact, sometimes because they’re forced to through work or home proximity or through friends. More often than not, a victim of sexual assault will hold onto their abuse, feeling shame for it for years, often never telling anybody about it.
Psychological stress rarely ever manifests in ways that most of us assume they do. For people who experience sexual violence, that effect can lead to a quiet pain.
According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) 94% of women who have been raped experience PTSD two weeks afterward, 30% report symptoms of PTSD nine months afterward, 33% of victims debate suicide and 13% of victims actually do commit suicide. Add to that the fact that 70% of victims experience moderate to severe distress, much higher than all other forms of violent crimes.
So then, what effects does sexual harassment have on people then? They’re obviously not as extreme, right? Well, no, not always but they can be. In fact, most health experts agree that the psychological effects of sexual harassment can lead to depression, anxiety, as well as a bevy of other mental health issues. According to a study done in Sweden, the effects of sexual harassment can increase the likelihood of suicide.
So, with all of that out of the way, let’s go back to that question. The question of whether or not I, a male, am on the other side of that, whether or not I am not guilty of this. I’ll be frank with you, I don’t know. I don’t think I have ever sexually harassed a woman, but most likely, I wouldn’t even know if I had. That doesn’t wash my hands of guilt but it is worth thinking about, right?
And that’s the point. That’s why things like #NotAllMen aren’t necessary and in fact work to distract from the real problem, which is that out of the billions of women on this planet, somewhere around 80% of them have experienced some form of harassment or assault that can lead to depression, anxiety, PTSD, and in some cases suicide. Maybe you don’t think you’re guilty, maybe you think you’re nothing but kind and generous and never harass women, but maybe you’re not aware and statistically speaking, you’re probably not aware.
That being said, I’m sure you could think of an instance where you or somebody you know harassed somebody. Maybe it made you feel gross, but you didn’t do anything about it because you thought that maybe it was harmless. Statistically speaking, it wasn’t harmless and had long-term effects on that person.
All I’m saying is this: think about your interactions with women, think about your friend’s interactions with women, think about stories you’ve heard, or stories that women might have told you about their interactions with men. All of those instances have had an effect on the victims in those instances. Maybe it didn’t seem like it, maybe they seem fine, but maybe they aren’t. In fact, statistically speaking, they’re not.
So, take the time to assess yourself and determine whether or not you or somebody you know is guilty, no matter how small, and how maybe what you should be learning from this isn’t that you’re a good person or that you’re a part of the #NotAllMen, but that maybe you should think twice about your interactions and the way you behave or the way the people around you behave, because these interactions have very dangerous effects.