How do you reconcile your love for those who behave badly?

Savannah Guthrie, Matt Lauer’s cohost on Today, asked, “How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly?” This effectively captures how I feel about the multiple men in my professional life who have sexually harassed me as my teachers, mentors, and colleagues. I have never reported them and likely never will, because I value their friendship and feel that I owe much of my successes and my career to their support and guidance and letters of recommendation. In return, however, I have been privy to unwanted touches, unasked for sexual compliments, and, at one point, an actual invitation to pursue something in spite of his being married to someone else. I honestly do not believe that these men realized what damage they were causing, so I ignored it all, laughed it all off (“giggled” it all off, more like, playing the role I knew would be acceptable), and then went home and felt lousy and crummy and dirty. Because when your graduate professor tells you he loves your poetry, but then a few months later sends you a picture of a woman in a beautiful, alluring gown from the NY Times fashion magazine and says, “This looks just like you. You would look beautiful in this,” and then tells you another time that he has a “crush” on you in this lackadaisical “tee-hee” confidentiality, it’s impossible to go home and think, “gee, I’m sure he really likes me for my poetry/intelligence/personality/work-ethic and not for my body.” And this is specifically why I stopped writing poetry—because I realized that this mentor never really admired my ability; he wanted me to be close because of what I now know to have been a history of grooming young, pretty female graduate students to be his special protégés, like Mark Twain had his “angelfish.”

And yet, I still have a profound respect and a legitimate affinity for this man and his work and to other men in my life who have crossed boundaries with me and then gaslighted me with the follow-up, “oh, I hope you don’t sue me for sexual harassment.” I still fear the damage these men could do to my reputation should I ever threaten theirs, and, ultimately, I really don’t think they knew the extent of their harm. When a student submitted an evaluation about me that said my “sweet can was easy on the eyes,” my male colleagues in the graduate instructor offices laughed and said they wished students gave them compliments like that in their evaluations. I laughed it off, too. But I realized then that these men just didn’t get it. Because I didn’t read the student evaluation as a compliment. I read it as: “Dear woman who thinks she can have power over my grade and my educational career: you are NOTHING to me other than a pair of legs and a sweet can for me to leer at without your consent.” It made me feel small and threatened and exposed.

And for anyone out there who thinks this stuff is only happening “in the world” or “in Hollywood,” think again. It has happened to me repeatedly, it has happened to me both inside and outside of church institutions, it has happened to me since I’ve been married, and I anticipate it will continue to happen to me but differently—as I am no longer a sweet, young thing but a grown-up, less-alluring woman who just this week received a lengthy email from a man from another university who wanted to tell me that my godless feminist ideologies do not qualify me to teach at a Christian university and that I need to be careful about what professors taught me in grad school (as if I, a woman, would be incapable of coming to my own conclusions and conducting my own research and scholarship). This is what it is like sometimes to be a woman in academia; at least, this is what it has been like for me. So how do you reconcile your love and respect for your colleagues, mentors, church leaders, professors, and friends when you find that they have been behaving badly—when they have, in fact, behaved badly toward you?

Comments

  1. “this is specifically why I stopped writing poetry—because I realized that this mentor never really admired my ability”

    This is particularly awful. i’m so sorry, Grover.

  2. There was a great article in the Guardian today about how fraught it was for Mormon women to say #metoo: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/29/mormon-women-metoo-particular-challenge-sexual-abuse

    Our culture doesn’t like to acknowledge the power imbalance between men & women, and it certainly doesn’t like to be shown the underbelly of that imbalance, things like whom we believe, whose pain is important, and what we do when someone victimizes another person in our community.

    The Guardian article points to a focus on women being told to forgive, but the problem is when we always tell one side to forgive, but never actually create change of the behavior on the other side. At some point, you have to cut out the toxic relationships from your life, but it still doesn’t create change either individually or collectively. No easy answers.

  3. That Guardian article is gutting. Thanks for linking it here, Angela.

  4. (Gutting but also super important and necessary, I should clarify.)

  5. This was really hard to read. But it is so important that these harassment instances see the light of day. Thanks for being willing to share.

    I have to admit I was particularly appalled by the anonymous student comment. It is just so horrible to think that someone sat and objectified you while you were giving everything you had to helping them learn. Being a good teacher means making yourself vulnerable, and the callousness of that comment is just chilling. (Everything else is horrible too, but that punched me in the gut.)

  6. Very well written. Thank you for sharing in earnest.
    Forgiveness & Prayer
    #EducationAndInclusion
    2 Timothy Chapter 3
    Ephesians Chapters 4-6
    ✌❤🤙

  7. Thanks for sharing this. We need it.

  8. Bad student evals of female faculty at the BYUs is very much a thing. It’s deeply awful. Thanks for speaking up about your experience. I know quite a few women who just put up with it in silence (or don’t even read their evals anymore). May your voice help to bring this festering rot into the light.

  9. We need to be very meticulous in defining “love”. It can’t mean turning a blind eye to abuse or forgoing justice altogether. Surely ‘love’ is a much stronger and more powerful force than that.

  10. “Bad student evals of female faculty at the BYUs is very much a thing.”

    But is it any more of a thing than at other universities? Are we somehow unique in this regard? Or is this just the Mormon flavor of a ubiquitous societal problem?

    Along these same lines, if there’s one thing that really has hit hard from the last three months for me, it is that these abuses have come from men in power from all political persuasions–rightists, leftists, centrists. There doesn’t seem to be much that links these perpetrators together except male power imbalance.

    And not to get too far off topic, but I had a similar reaction to the Guardian article–sad and frustrating, but not particularly unique. Just the Mormon version of the same problem we’re seeing in a variety of different fields right now. (Though I’m probably more sympathetic to the stake president’s difficult position than many would be here.) Maybe the point is that as Mormons we should be doing a lot better than society at large, which is something I would wholeheartedly agree with. But I guess I’d be surprised if we’re doing appreciably worse.

  11. I don’t have an answer for your question. I’m sorry that this is so widespread and that it undermines you (and women in general) in so many areas. I’m with Steve. It’s really sad that this objectification and harassment pushed you to give up writing poetry, but I can totally see how it would sour you on it.

  12. I agree with Anonym. Mercy cannot rob justice.

  13. jimbob: the problem is ubiquitous (Grover’s eval didn’t happen at a BYU), but my sense is that the BYU variation has its own particular toxicity. Mormon culture doesn’t exactly prepare male students to move as adults in a space governed by a female authority figure. American culture doesn’t do a great job of it, either, but the possibilities there are greater at present.

  14. jimbob, anecdotally from 3 female (former) byu profs who now teach at different schools – yes. Male student evals are a different animal at BYU than other universities.

  15. Cosette Johnson Blanchard says:

    I think you make good points in your article, however, I take exception that these men are unaware of the damage they cause. They know they can get away with their bad behavior, they laugh it off and make comments hoping not to be charged with sexual harassment, because they are supported by a system of male privilege, and the victims know they would be sabotaging themselves if they speak up! Until Men are always held accountable, the abuse & privilege will continue!

  16. Jason: “Mormon culture doesn’t exactly prepare male students to move as adults in a space governed by a female authority figure. American culture doesn’t do a great job of it, either, but the possibilities there are greater at present.” In may ways, Mormon culture often creates stunted development for men (and unrealistic expectations) by enforcing the idea that women have no authority and have no business being in the workplace. And I wouldn’t soft-pedal how American culture does at it. Most reputable large corporations (barring certain male-dominated industries) will not tolerate behaviors that are considered normal at BYU in terms of how men act toward and speak to women. Recruiters are notoriously leery of certain attitudes among BYU grads in business who are incapable of working with women.

  17. You’re right, Angela. My only hesitation about patting America on the head too much is, well, #metoo.

  18. I appreciate the post and comments. My thoughts are hardly coherent on this subject, but I’d like to share these and see what you all think:

    First, three secondary teachers in my county was arrested and convicted for seducing students. All three were women. Predatory behavior is not solely a problem of those supported by a system of male privilege.

    Second, how much media is out there which supports the idea of older men being the love interest of a much younger, even teen-aged woman? George Michael (“Father Figure”) and Sting (“Don’t Stand so Close to me”) sing about it. I found those ideas disgusting when those songs were first released. Will they still be aired in the wake of the Moore scandal? Very likely. What guidelines should society embrace to limit predatory behavior and prevent future victimization?

    Third, Mike Pence has been roundly criticized for establishing behavioral lines he would not cross when it comes to the opposite sex. Yet, he still has his job, while Charlie Rose is entering forced retirement. Will the unfortunate outcome of these scandals be the distancing of genders in the professional world?

  19. Fourth, when will the Church finally stop having young women and young men face middle-aged or older men in private rooms for interviews about their sex lives? My youngest daughter refuses to go into a Bishop’s interview with our current Bishop because his questions were so intrusive.

    In her last interview with him, he asked her “Do you keep the law of chastity?” My daughter answered in the affirmative. He then asked follow-up questions about female masturbation, oral sex, etc. She felt cornered and trapped. She thought he was accusing her of those actions, that he did not believe here initial answer. It was days before I found out, she was depressed for days before she finally confided in her mother and myself. That form of interview is a form of sexual assault. She was a minor, a completely active and dedicated LDS girl. We are both active.

    My wife sent a letter to the area authority and we were soon invited to a counseling session with the Stake Presidency. (I love my wife, she is grit and guts!) They asked if our daughter was O.K. We informed them that she was… now. They then spent an hour explaining how necessary and important tough interviews were for the youth. I disagreed and we left in disgust. I asked for a release as a clerk to the Bishop in question. I could not be around him. That was two years ago. I asked for a calling six months ago, but, well, they only offered callings they knew I could not perform. Oh, well… I’ll have plenty of time to do my home teaching. Maybe I’ll learn to read Hebrew this year.

    My daughter is on full scholarship at a state university, attends institute and is fully active. She is planning on law school. She also knows her parents love and support her.

  20. Old man, here’s what I think of your three points:

    1. Sure, this happens with males and females. But it’s almost always a male so let’s not distract here.

    2. Sting’s song was not in praise of a Lolita situation. But yes let’s not valorize child predation (also, pedophilia is not the topic of this post).

    3. Inevitably, women will suffer as men will exclude them from social and business circles under the guise of avoiding the appearance of evil.

  21. Thanks for this post. Beautifully and painfully articulated. This is rough. And scary. I’m sorry you’ve had these experiences. I don’t have a specific answer to this painful question. I personally feel that “love” and “valuing friendship” are misplaced when they are offered to someone who engages in abuse of power. I do not believe such individuals are in any way naive or innocent. They know what they’re doing and they count on not being held accountable. It’s time to be tenacious in holding them accountable. I hope we can all be tenacious.

    I’ve learned by experience that it’s a lone and dreary world when we first walk away from people – even valued and loved people – who cause us harm. But it’s also a better world, and ultimately the only place I want to live.

    I’m genuinely hopeful about this flood of women’s voices. I’m hopeful for real —though slow and incremental — cultural change. Thank again for your contribution to the conversation.

  22. Sooo…, and I hope this is not indelicate, your prose is so great, I just bet your poetry is too. How bout starting back? I started back 5 years ago after a two decade hiatus, And I am feeling a little bit more alive. Why not give it whirl? I suspect the world would be richer for it

  23. This made me cry. I read it a couple hours after an occupational therapy appointment where the man and woman team OT’s I am seeing for a serious hand injury had a conversation with an elderly man while I sat off to the side. The two therapists were disagreeing with the elderly man that all the recent “me too” in the media had generalized merit. My eyebrows raised when the woman therapist said, “For instance when women complain about men calling them sweetie or honey, that’s just too far”, but I had a visceral, sickened response when she also went on to say, “…or those women who agreed to meet Weinstein in a *hotel room* – those women are just as much to blame as him.” I’ve been thinking about it all day and about the immediate intense emotions I felt listening to those two therapists and how if I complained about their behavior I am quite certain I would get less quality of care, and how I don’t have access to other therapists to switch to. I stuffed all my reasonable responses down in that room because I needed what those therapists could give me, and I am so angry about how often this boundary crossing (especially in my younger years) has been a pattern with those in positions of power over me. Sending my apologies for the similar experiences you’ve shared here.

    On another note, I do usually feel very optimistic and fulfilled watching my three daughters grow up so comfortable in their skin, and saying no so freely and without apology in a way that I never did at their ages. It’s been very healing to *me* to be able to offer them a nearly 24/7 environment where this is their normal, but my unresolved feelings over my own childhood and youth mistreatments still come up when I’m vulnerable, like with this hand injury.

  24. “Sure, this happens with males and females. But it’s almost always a male so let’s not distract here.”

    That first sentence is correct. That second one isn’t.

  25. Brokenphoenix says:

    “So how do you reconcile your love and respect for your colleagues, mentors, church leaders, professors, and friends when you find that they have been behaving badly—when they have, in fact, behaved badly toward you?”

    I find it interesting that this question does not include family members. Let’s ask someone who has been abused by their parents or spouse or uncle or grandparents.

    Here’s my answer: people are complex. There’s capacity for good in all of us. There’s capacity to do hurtful, horrible things in all of us. What is forgivable? That’s up to you to decide. Navigate it however you need to.

  26. your food allergy is fake says:

    “I’ve learned by experience that it’s a lone and dreary world when we first walk away from people – even valued and loved people – who cause us harm. But it’s also a better world, and ultimately the only place I want to live.”

    This is interesting. But I think it oversimplifies the problem. Are there not varying degrees of harm in these stories? And are there not varying degrees of malicious intent? I am certain that in at least some instances, the harasser does not fully understand the depth of the damage, as the OP suggests. There is a whole range of sins here, and a range of possible and appropriate reactions short of (and far beyond) walking away from people.

    Also, the George Michael song is crap, and the Police one is quality with underrated work by Stewart Copeland.

  27. Bro. Jones says:

    Thanks for this post. I’m sorry for everything you’ve experienced, Grover.

    I was thinking about one of the stories told in the linked Guardian article above. In short, an adult LDS woman reported to her father’s church leaders that he had abused her as a child. They confronted him, he denied it, and they said, “Well, there’s not much we can do if he doesn’t confess.”

    What *should* leaders do in that kind of situation? I’m earnestly asking, not looking to demonize any hypothetical party involved. I don’t know what the correct response would be. It certainly seems reasonable to at least release the alleged perpetrator from any leadership or youth-related callings, but beyond that, what steps should they take?

  28. Bro. Jones says:

    Just read the actual letter from the father’s bishop, linked from the article. I’m definitely put off that the bishop seems to completely disregard the protection of other people (“innocents”), and otherwise I’m still not clear how he should have best proceeded.

  29. It’s interesting that certain commenters are trying to make the point that women commit certain crimes and harassment at a high rate. I have seen this argument cropping up the last few years in these kinds of discussions and didn’t know where it was coming from until I recently started using a news aggregator that pulled in content from Fox News. They tend to play up a small number of stories from throughout the United States of women preying on teenage boys. (Their content tends toward the excessively voyeuristic, but that’s another story.) I follow local news in two media markets, and for every 100 or more stories about problems of this sort, there’s maybe one about a woman, a grand total of two or three cases in my area over the past decade. And I just spot-checked the Megan’s List database for my county, representing a population of well over three-quarters of a million people. I could only stand to scroll through several hundred entries, but didn’t see a single woman, and there are none in my immediate community.

    The very low incidence of female offenders should raise questions about why certain male commenters find the need to deflect from the central point of these conversations.

  30. Bro. Jones comment reinforces the need for victims of abuse to call the police not the Bishop. The phone number (legal hotline?) for church leaders to call in these situations primarily protects the institution, not victims (if I have my facts straight, not 100% sure. Does anyone know more about it?).

  31. Anonym–if the abuse took place beyond the reach of the statue of limitations, there’s really nothing the police can do. If the accusation is coming quickly after the actual occurrence, then they can make arrests and potentially seek criminal prosecution.

    That’s part of what makes that particular situation so thorny. If the abuse was recent, I would absolutely suggest 1) the victim should contact law enforcement 2) the bishop should immediately release the accused abuser from all callings pending the legal outcome.

  32. BroJones — Good question. Maybe there are many answers. BTW, You’ll notice in The Guardian article, it wasn’t just Carol, but her sister who also reported abuse. Two women, corroborating each other’s story of assault in childhood by this man . . . My personal feeling is the Church should have excommunicated him. It’s time we start believing the victims. And start educating leaders in more meaningful and relevant ways to effectively deal with these situations — as Holly Richardson calls for in the same article.

    Beyond that, the church should have ensured this man had no access to children within the LDS community (see also predators in scouting leadership). Instead, they allowed him to go to China to teach English to children with a church-sponsored program. (I happen to know Carol and her family.)

    I realize these are lofty goals, especially without the victim utilizing legal recourse toward the perpetrator. That would clear things up nicely for church leaders. But many victims of childhood abuse who do their recovery work in adulthood choose not to pursue legal action for the same reasons Carol chose not to: They need their precious emotional, financial, and physical resources to care for themselves and their families.

  33. If you tolerate it in your life, if you do not call out the perpetrator, you perpetuate it in the lives of your children. It will not stop unless you stop it. Decide how best to make that happen.

  34. Millie–not sure if you’re responding to my posts, but if you are, I have no idea how to translate what you’re saying into an ecclesiastic action plan.

  35. But figuring out what the applicable statute of limitations is and figuring out whether a given situation of abuse is barred by the statute of limitations is a determination that shouldn’t be placed on the shoulders of victims.

    If you’ve been the victim of abuse, call the police or call a lawyer. If nothing can be done, they’ll tell you. But don’t assume that there’s no recourse without finding out.

  36. The $64,000 Answer says:

    I too am most reluctant to thread-jack. But at the same time, to allow harmful myths about sexual violence to go uncontradicted seems problematical also. I’ll try to strike a balance by expressing my support for the OP and regret that I can’t think of a very helpful answer to her excellent question; my horror over what happened to Old Man’s daughter (which, in my book, counts as non-contact sexual abuse); and by making this my sole contribution to this thread.

    Mr Evans’ contention that sexual harassment and, one is led to infer, sexual violence in general is “almost always” perpetrated by men and experienced by women is incorrect. A very recent large study by the University of Michigan, drawing on data gathered by the Center for Disease Control’s National Survey of Family Growth, indicates that some 8% of American men have experienced rape (using the current FBI definition of that offense) by their forty-fourth birthday. The comparable figure for women was 25%, which is almost certainly an underestimate in their case. Those numbers have remained fairly constant in successive iterations of the NSFG, suggesting that they are indicative of a general trend.

    Wondering’s assumption in respect of female perpetrators that absence of evidence is evidence of absence is also difficult to sustain. To be sure, she is not alone in taking this view. In 1997, the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics issued a much-cited report suggesting that 99% of perpetrators of forcible rape were male, a finding that quickly went viral and is still to be found in much of the literature. However, that statistic derived from the fact that at the time, forcible rape was defined by the FBI as “the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” In other words, the only way a woman could appear in the BJS report was by acting as an accessory to a male perpetrator.

    The advent of gender-neutral criminal laws, greater sensitivity on the part of police and prosecutors to the reality of male victimization, and a readiness for the first time to ask questions about female perpetration has begun in the last few years to reveal a strikingly different picture. The National Crime Victimization Survey, aggregated across the four years 2010-13, revealed a female-perpetration rate of 28% in cases of rape and sexual assault. A still higher self-reported figure was obtained in a study by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2012: of those acknowledging having forced another person into sexual intercourse, a little under 44% were female. Surveys of campus sexual violence are also yielding female-perpetration rates in a broad, but comparable, range. In the collegiate setting, so far as male victims are concerned, a majority of reported perpetrators are female.

    The methods typically used by female perpetrators, however, do differ quite significantly from those of males. Physical force, though not unknown, is much less in evidence. The use of intoxicants, blackmail, or threats of self-harm is far more common. However, the degree of psychological harm caused by a given sexual assault is not necessarily positively correlated with the amount of violence used to accomplish it. It may in fact be weakly negatively correlated, though we don’t yet have enough evidence to be certain either way.

    It’s worth bearing in mind that almost everything we know about female-perpetrated sexual offenses comes from the United States alone. Siobhán Weare of Lancaster University is in the midst of a research project in Great Britain that should tell us more about whether the U.S. patterns we’re observing also hold good elsewhere.

    At present, the best evidence suggests that a majority of perpetrators, in North America and elsewhere, are indeed male and a majority of victims female, but that substantial minorities of female perpetrators and male victims also exist—so many of both that we should be wary of making sweeping and, to the victims, deeply damaging, generalizations.

  37. Bro. Jones, I was not replying to your post but to the original post.
    I have no ecclesiastic plan to change anything in the LDS Church. I had to realize that was almost undoable after I tried to get an egregious wrong righted years ago. Not responsible was what can back from the General Authority who took my letter, passed up through my stake president and the regional rep. Unfortunately, I still consider their teachings and policies and training (or lack of it) for their local leaders to be very responsible for what went wrong. But until they choose to change, nothing is going to happen. I found the entire culture has to change for the leadership of the LDS Church to change. For all the talk about the power of the priesthood, they seem to be cultural followers, not leaders.
    I wish the Church leadership could look at themselves sometimes as those of us being asked to follow them see them. I think they would be surprised as what a horrible job we sometimes think they are doing. I also wish they would stop teaching lessons in Church where they parade the virtues of the priesthood, but seem incapable of actually fulfilling the promises made in the stories they love to tell. If you are going to teach a Sunday School lesson, or give a talk, you need to mean what you say.

  38. “Mr Evans’ contention that sexual harassment and, one is led to infer, sexual violence in general is “almost always” perpetrated by men and experienced by women is incorrect”

    I’ll amend the comment from “almost always” to “most frequently”. Thank you for the correction.

  39. Bruised, broken, yet at peace says:

    I’m a married male, and by all outward appearances, I would have been in the privileged position. I have a reputation for being strong and strong willed. But power and abuse comes in many forms and can come from men or women. The sexual harassment I suffered happened in multiple instances across a number of months. It was explicit, blatant, and unwanted. I clearly stated my objections many, many times. But due to the dynamics of the situation I was unable to find a way out and it left me suicidally depressed and emotionally paralyzed. I felt dirty and “unworthy” in our Mormon vernacular. It took me months to recognize it as harassment because I was a man and she was a woman. I was concerned if I told anyone they would blame me, especially in today’s environment.

    One of the points of the OP was how do you reconcile your love for your harasser. My favorite response in the comments is that people are complex. As violated and wounded as I was by this person, I could see the good and beautiful in them as well. Though I am gratefully out of the situation, I still feel a deep concern and even love for them. I do not believe they understand at all the damage they did to me, in spite of my efforts to communicate. I do believe in accountability simply to stop the abuse, but I have no desire for vengeance or even justice. I hope the healing of the atonement is as powerful for them as it is for me. Yea, all are fallen and are lost…

  40. EnglishTeacher says:

    How do I deal with it? I found my allies, and as a result, self-advocate with greater confidence now than I did in my initial years of teaching. It’s so important to find like minded individuals in the department who can empathize, and advise part-timers on recourse. I’d also say that remembering it’s a learning curve is important. Even the most liberal, feminist-oriented men in my department have blind spots and unconscious behaviors that can alienate their female coworkers. I don’t think any of it comes from the same leering, power-driven place residing in people like Harvey Weinstein, though. It’s years of conditioning and culture that even the most sensitive of men still can carry as baggage and have influence their behavior. I refer to academia at large, but these are also problems that can permeate LDS culture and should be checked when they manifest.

  41. $64,000: Thank you for a sober explanation of what we know and what we don’t know. I’m no expert, for sure, but your recital fits what I know and have read. I plan to use it as the state of the art, until we know more (next year?)

    To the question of the OP, I’m going to try a serious response. Emphasis on try, because this is a very difficult subject and it’s a lot easier for me (old cis white guy) to put myself in the shoes of the abuser than the abused. Recognizing that built-in inescapable bias, I’m not sure I trust anything I say.

    So qualified, it seems to me that a useful framing might be to distinguish “what about me?” and “what about others?”

    In the what about me? arena, it’s not unreasonable to think about forgiveness, about moving on, about non-judicial ‘punishments,’ about apologies. There’s a whole range of possibilities. To be clear, having someone else — whether priest or bishop or policeman or administrator — push a lesser punishment or forgiveness approach is highly problematic and the Mormon church is guilty on that score. But coming from the victim herself, I’d respect that approach.

    But in the “what about others?” arena, I think a different approach is called for. Acknowledging that there will always be difficult judgment calls and borderline cases, it seems to me that if a victim senses that there’s a pattern or a significant (? query what standard should apply) risk that the same behavior will continue with other victims, then the loving approach is to call it out. Whether you call it tough love (for the perp), or call it love for those future victims.

    I’m sensitive to the fact that “call it out” still carries a heavy burden for the victim in our society. That’s a travesty. And it’s unfair to say “call it out” as a general principle without allowing for the great variety of circumstances. But as a starting point, that’s where I come down.

    On the ecclesiastical side I have similar thoughts. First, the church needs to get away from every form of victim blaming and stop counseling forgiveness to and by the victim (not that there’s nothing to say for forgivenesss, but it strikes me as almost always the wrong thing to say to a victim). Second, carefully consider whether we’re talking to a one time special circumstances offender, or a predator or repeat offender. And then, consider counseling repentance and forgiveness for the one time offender, and come down with the pitchforks of hell on the predator.

  42. I’m grateful for the conversation that has developed from this post. It is helping me work through my own thoughts, and the comment that is haunting me is the one by Millie: “If you tolerate it in your life, if you do not call out the perpetrator, you perpetuate it in the lives of your children. It will not stop unless you stop it. Decide how best to make that happen.” I’m taking this caution seriously.

    I also know that I am very lucky that the harassment never developed to assault and that the perpetrators have not been family members. Because the degree of harassment is not shocking or devastating, I think that has been another reason I feel sheepish talking about it at all, and it has been easy to gaslight myself into thinking that this is just how friends treat friends of different genders. Except that obviously isn’t true. These men weren’t acting as friends would.

    I’m not sure what I’m saying in this comment except that I’m grateful to the contributors in this thread to give me something to think about as I navigate the rest of my career and social engagement with other men. I have had more healthy and respectful relationships with male colleagues than I have had otherwise, and that means something to me, too.

  43. Bro. Jones says:

    Millie — I hear you and I’m with you.

  44. I chose to enter academia in a field that is predominately male. In this field, I encountered many instances of sexual harassment. I can honestly say that I was sexually harassed by 80% of my fellow male grad students. I will spare you the gory details, but what transpired was not ‘harmless flirting’. I was also stalked by my student who (among other things) drove twelve hours to another state to deliver a letter to my dad at his workplace about his fantasies of a future life with me. On top of all that, I was sexually harassed by two professors. One of these men, in particular, sexually harassed every woman in the department (there were only a handful of us). When one woman reported it to the department head, she was told that he was too famous and important to do anything about it and she should just be a team player and not take any classes from him anymore. After this, she was treated so aggressively by some in the department that she left the program. Hearing from the other women that it was useless and risky to go to the administration made me decide not to report my own experiences.

    Sexual harassment is so insidious because it undermines a person’s confidence in their own abilities and because, too often women are expected to suck it up, play nice, be tough and laugh about it later. On top of it all, there are often career costs to trying to avoid or manage the offending behavior. Its hard to explain how demoralizing the experience is, but I am so over it. With more years, and more confidence, I can honestly say that I will never put up with that sort of behavior again. Thank you to every single one of the women and men out there who have courageously shared their stories and made it a little easier for all of us to speak out.

  45. Aussie Mormon says:

    Aside from being completely inappropriate, the behaviour that Rachel (and the other lady she mentioned) experienced massively sets back all the work done to attract females into STEM related areas (which sucks, because from what I’ve seen, they tend to perform better).
    We won’t be able to get intelligent high-level females visible in academia for young girls to see and say “Hey I can be an engineer too” if the ones that make it far get harassed so much they leave an end up in consulting companies where they can put their skills to good use, but aren’t a constant visible example of female achievement.

  46. jaxjensen says:

    So in SS today we were talking about families and such. Discussion moves to raising kids and from there to protecting them from sexual influences, etc. One guy says how we need to not shield so much from the terms they are hearing at school and media… that they need to hear us talk about what they are hearing about elsewhere.

    Sure enough someone spoke up saying, “Now days you even have pushback against Bishops. They say that Bishops shouldn’t be asking about specific sexual acts, saying that Bishops shouldn’t talk about that in interviews, only be very basic. But that’s their job!”

    I didn’t even raise my hand but just spoke up replying, “I’m going to push back on that. My oldest is a 15 yr old girl. There is no way any middle aged man should be having sexually explicit discussions with her. In groups, fine. More explicit discussions, fine. But one on one? No way. Aside from asking about the law of chastity, no man should be questioning my daughter about explicit sexual acts.” Teacher immediately said, “We’re going to leave that at that” and changed the subject.

    An woman (late 50’s?) grabbed my arm as I left and said, “Thanks for your comment. I agree.”

  47. jaxjensen: I’m so glad you made that comment in SS. I completely agree. I was a fresh returned missionary when my bishop held “scoping interviews” (should have known how creepy hey would be by the name alone) where he asked us about our sexual history, pornography, masturbation, and he phrased his questions as “when was the last time you did this.” It was so horrible. I was so grossed out as a twenty year old having a middle aged man ask so directly and with the tone of accusation about my (albeit nonexistent) sex life. I called my mom crying after, and even though I had nothing to talk to him about I still felt icky and disturbed. And as I thought about it, even if I did have pornography/maturbation/chastity issues, I would definitely lie about it to a bishop who made an appointment with me to interrogate me about it. So the experience was basically useless for everyone involved.

  48. jaxjensen: I’m glad that you spoke up.

    soulfulcarly: That bishop seriously crossed the line. It’s one thing to ask the chastity question in the TR interview (which the Handbook explicitly says interviewers are not to interpret, although I’ve seen several bishopric members violate this); it’s something altogether different (and not ok in the least) to schedule interviews for the sole purpose of sexual interrogation. Dude needs to be released, yesterday.

  49. Jason K: Thank you for being grossed out with me. Let’s hope he’s released by now. I’ve noticed in singles wards bishops feel like they have more freedom to be the sex police and its weird and creepy.

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