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Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 11, 2017

‘The Reckoning’

By Karyn Spory, Mt. Pleasant News | Dec 01, 2017

My podcast momentarily faded out as a faint chirp indicated there was breaking news. My eyes broke away from my computer screen just as the news alert scrolled across the screen of my iPhone.

Matt Lauer had been fired from the ‘Today’ show.

I didn’t even need to read the story to guess why he had been fired. Another day, another man I had admired accused of sexual misconduct.

In October, a slew of women came forward to accuse Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual abuse and harassment. Since then, it seems every time I turn on the TV or scan the headlines on social media another powerful man has been accused of sexual misconduct.

“Why now? Why does everyone suddenly have a story?” one of my friends asked while we were discussing Lauer’s firing.

My answer is that we are finally paying attention.

In every article I’ve read about the onslaught of sexual assault and harassment allegations, the article mentions we’re in a “reckoning.” But what does that mean?

Well, for me this reckoning comes in three phases. The first is my own personal reckoning.

I was heartbroken when I read journalist Charlie Rose had been fired from CBS for allegations of sexual harassment. I was sickened when I heard comedian Louis C.K. had been accused of sexual misconduct. I was devastated when the allegations against Sen. Al Franken were made. By the time the allegations against Matt Lauer came out, I was furious.

For Franken and Rose, these were men I looked up to and respected. Louis C.K. was so funny and seemed so likable and Lauer, well, this was a man who was invited into our home every day when we turned on the “Today” show. When you watch someone’s reporting day after day or their stand up specials, you get to feel like you know them, just a little. And then to find out these men are not at all who you had imagined, it’s more than just a little heartbreaking. I felt betrayed. I felt like I had been douped.

And then I thought of all of the women and men who have come forward and it feels like my insides have been scooped out and tossed across the room because you know that most of them had to come back and see their (alleged) assaulter day after day. I think comedian Sarah Silverman summed up my feelings best during a monologue on her Hulu show, “I Love You, America.”

“This recent calling out of sexual assault has been a long time coming,” she said. “It’s good. It’s like cutting gout tumors. It’s messy and complicated and it’s going to hurt, but it’s necessary and we’ll all be better for it,”

Silverman said during this reckoning some of our heroes may turn out to not be the knight in shining armor we thought they were. For Silverman, this included her long time friend Louis C.K. “I love Louie, but Louie did these things. Both of these statements are true. So I keep asking myself ... can you love someone who did bad things?”

The second part to this reckoning, I hope, is of our perception.

The allegations against Franken included taking a lewd photo with a woman while she is sleeping. Franken was on a USO tour and while the female soldier was asleep, he posed in a photo where it looked like he was groping her. My first thought when I saw the photo was that I’d seen it before. I don’t know if I actually had seen it before, but that’s not the point. I’d seen pictures like that before. At that time, I thought it was just unfortunate for that woman because we lived in a society where “those things just happen.” But they don’t. Sexual assault or harassment isn’t like a natural disaster where the skies open up and distruction rains down on you. It’s a conscious decision by someone. Franken made the decision to take that picture. Rose, Louis C.K. and Lauer all chose to do those things (allegedly).

Once we change our perception, we can start the third phase and stop telling girls everything they need to do to avoid being assaulted and start telling boys their decisions are their own. When we stop living by the saying “boys will be boys” and start saying “boys will be held responsible for their actions” we send a signal to those individuals in a position of power that they too will be held accountable. And that is, in essence, the reckoning.

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