As I write this, I do so in haste. In the last seven days, I have been contacted by many men to consult with them on how to handle their past transgressions. Some have asked from a personal perspective whether I have ever seen or experienced wrongdoing on their parts. Others have approached Beyond Harassment with the fear of being accused, of old ghosts reappearing, or with personal confessions of wrongdoing, the impact of which is beginning to poke through their inner defenses.
This can be tough to hear as a survivor of two rapes, several sexually motivated assaults, and countless incidents of groping, harassment, and so forth. Nonetheless, it is so important to hear that these men want to receive some kind of guidance- a way to measure their transgressions, and a way to potentially reform and reconcile with whomever may have suffered as a result.
I follow the Tao. According to my beliefs, learning can be harvested from the blossom of all suffering. Those who find a way to funnel suffering into service to the Truth can become healers of others as they heal themselves. This idea is also a foundation of restorative justice. In restorative justice practices, an offender makes things right with the individual or community that has been harmed by them. It makes forgiveness and recovery possible in ways that go far beyond justice cycles that end with punishment. Certainly, some sexual predators exhibit a level of sociopathology that cannot be healed, but with the widespread nature of sexual harassment, I have to hold the hope and belief that many can find a better path. Certainly- the healing that is possible for victims through such an approach is critical.
There are some very complex theories around trauma, the way the brain processes trauma, and the steps of recovery that inform my thoughts on this matter- They are far too much to go into here. But to crystallize the process back into the light, it boils down to Truth and Reconciliation. This was the name given to the process used in Rwanda to repair the cultural wounds around the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Those who had perpetrated violence against their neighbors started with truth telling. There was forgiveness and reintegration as a result.
To women and survivors, the sexual violence of our culture can feel like a spiritual genocide of sorts. It re-wounds all of us to have the accused meet our claims with obfuscation, or to not be believed, or shushed by our confidantes. The pain of our culture also wounds the perpetrators of sexual misconduct. Very often, their misdeeds are very dark attempts to soothe their own wounds. Eventually, their own actions compound their inner hurt, and isolate them further. We cannot stop the problem of violative behavior at its source, unless we are willing to look here, in the most difficult space of all.
What is right and decent for one, is right and decent for all. While it may be the hardest space to navigate- it falls upon some of us to consider how we may heal the hurtful.
I challenge a man, or men, to step into the light and go into this space together,