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Editorial

Progress, Step by Step, in the Fight Against Sexual Harassment

It is tragic that it was only just last year that the issue of sexual harassment, like a damn bursting, spilled out into America’s public square.

Imagine what is happening in other countries.

Until last year, and for hundreds or even thousands of years, this issue, was at best, neglected.

To this day, in several countries, the victim is the one who is punished, the woman who is raped – not the perpetrator, the rapist.

In several countries, relatives are still forcing the victims to marry her rapist “to protect the family honor”.

However, even in more developed societies, women still feel too scared to respond.

They are often not believed. Sometimes they feel guilt, that they may have had some responsibility in inciting the rape.

Other times, especially when it comes to the workplace, they fear retaliation from their bosses, and from others who abuse them.

Over time, however, matters have improved.

The complaints of dozens of women against the powerful movie producer Harvey Weinstein brought to light the drama they experienced, opening up new horizons, creating a #MeToo movement among the women who now tell the world “it happened to me,” also, which gave a voice and encouragement to other women – but also, to men – to reveal their secrets.

Last week, however, this movement received a tremendous impetus, moving even more centrally into the ongoing national dialogue, passing into conversations taking place around the family dinner by an unexpected person: a United States Senator.

A Senator, the first female combat air force pilot, who took part in aviation battles as the head of her squadron, revealed in a hearing in the Senate that she was also raped by her superior.

That was Senator Martha McSally, Senator of Arizona.

“I thought I was strong,” she said, “but I felt powerless.” She did not mention the horror that she felt, saying, “I didn’t trust the system at the time. I blamed myself.”

Later, years later, when she revealed it, she felt “despair” with the way the Air Force handled it. “I almost separated from the Air Force at 18 years of service over my despair. Like many victims, I felt like the system was raping me all over again.”

But eventually she decided to stay and fight from inside. “To be a voice from within the ranks for women,” McSally said.

It is certain that her testimony will help somewhat to change the way society handles these crimes and the way in which organizations, small and large, respond to complaints.

While not all the accusations can be accurate, and while an “industry” of women – and men – has been created where stories come from nowhere about supposed abuse that are used for blackmail, each complaint should now be accorded the gravity that this horrific crime requires.

In the end, this issue will be fully dealt with when the victim is redeemed in the eyes of society and the perpetrator, not the victim, is treated like the criminal that he is.

It is one of the most serious fronts in human evolution that has not yet been dealt with.

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