December 3, 2017

Editorial: Sexual abuse out of the shadows

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The rash of sexual assault and harassment allegations hit home in the Bay State last week.

There is no doubt: Sexual abuse has been happening throughout human history, and will continue to happen. In large part, that’s because there will always be power inequities between people.

It’s not OK.

That’s the message these recent weeks of serial sexual misconduct claims have boiled down to. It’s simply not OK to sexually intimidate, coerce, or humiliate anyone.

This topic will inevitably die down from the headlines. But the message must last, and it can.

Unlike gun violence, immigration and many of the other issues that rise and fall in our national consciousness, sexual behavior and attitudes are under our control as individuals. We can’t blame “culture” or “politics,” or any other broad scapegoat. This is something we can change — and have been changing, gradually, for decades.

We’ve heard a lot recently about allegations of sexual misconduct involving men in the public eye: Matt Lauer; Charlie Rose; Roy Moore; Bryon Hefner, the husband of state Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg; Louis C.K.; Harvey Weinstein; Kevin Spacey and Mark Halperin. And the list goes on. We know the problem goes far beyond the sphere of celebrity and fame into our own communities, companies, schools and homes.

The accusers are not usually in the spotlight, but for the many victims with valid claims, the pain, shame and damage to their self-esteem can be deep and lasting. Victims deserve our attention and empathy, and one great way to give it is to resolve to prevent sexual trauma from happening to others in the ways we can.

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