It's only fair to share…

A revolution is in the wind, and it has been thrust upon us with lightning speed. Not a day goes by where we don’t hear about sexual assault or abuse by men on women. The attempt by men to take advantage of women is by no means a new phenomenon. After all, the casting couch––where men expected sexual rewards in exchange for promoting a female to an acting role––has been a staple of the entertainment industry for generations. It has also, to some degree been present in the corporate world.

The exposure of Harvey Weinstein’s multiple transgressions has opened the floodgate where women now feel empowered to come out and reveal abuse that took place many years ago. In quick succession, there has been exposure of other actors such as Kevin Spacey and politicians at all levels of government. This has even spilt over to Australian actor Geoffrey Rush who has been accused of sexual abuse and TV icon Don Burke. While some accusations may be questionable, most are legitimate.

Women are empowered now to speak out and not fear that their careers will be ruined which is what would have happened in the past. We all remember Bill Clinton who was accused by multiple women of sexual abuse but these women were vilified and even branded as “bimbos”.

It appears that the pendulum is swinging so far today that men must be wary of even friendly gestures which in the past would have been termed innocuous. A hand on the shoulder or a compliment on a woman’s appearance may be construed as a sexual advance. Many men have grown up with the expectation that women are there to serve them and at some level, they have not learned to respect women as human beings but rather as sex objects. The self-indulgent, selfie generation is unfortunately, more susceptible to sexual transgression.

There may be many causes for men’s behaviour, but the commonality in these situations are where men are in a position of power and women are not. In effect, this means a man is imposing his values on the woman. When a woman is discounted this way, she is left in a vulnerable position. Women can also exert their power by using sexuality to get what they want. It is not always just men who initiate the abuse.

Apparently, many relationships whether it’s marriage, de facto unions or employer-employee situations, are exposing people to a severe amount of stress. The legal system is taking care of the serious abuses. However, it would be great if through ongoing dialogue people could build trust and respect in all relationships.

So what can be done to remedy this situation?

Training in mutual respect is essential. Today’s mass media market tends to portray people as objects. In particular, boys grow up viewing females as sex commodities. Of course, it works both ways; women can see themselves or men as sexual objects. It would be great if the school system would teach mutual respect and trust as the basis for successful and caring relationships.

Sexual abuse or assault often occurs because of someone in a position of power taking advantage of another person.

Whether someone is a government official, a Hollywood director or a doctor, there needs to be a code of conduct established whereby each individual in a relationship is valued. Power players have learned how to control and manipulate others. Those who feel minimised are susceptible. Work relationships have to be on an entirely professional basis. If one is seeking a personal relationship, the working relationship has to be suspended, so that there is no coercion by either party as a means of control.

We’ve heard it before, when someone says an emphatic “No”, they are to be believed. In the past, some men felt that they could continue to harass and push a woman into a sexual relationship. The rule of thumb today is if you ask once and get a resounding rejection, take it no further. Otherwise one gets into the realm of abuse.

The younger generation often scoffs at dating as it took place in the past. However, courting someone is a way of allowing a relationship to develop in its logical progression. This helps to establish whether two individuals are compatible and how they honour each other’s values. It’s based on the idea that there is more to a relationship than what happens between the sheets.