How to Talk to People Who Don’t Support the Sexual Harassment Survivors

I’m sure many of us are surrounded by people who “get it” when it comes to these survivors of sexual harassment (and worse) speaking out about their bosses and others in power. We understand why Matt Lauer and the other men deserved to be fired or to resign, and why it was probably at least a decade too late. We also express zero shock when reports surface that “everybody” knew. Of course, they did – if you didn’t think that, you’re not paying attention.

But I’ve also overheard plenty of conversations in which people (yes, men as well as women) want to know why these women are “coming out of the woodwork” now and what they are trying to gain. They feel bad for these men losing the careers they’ve worked so hard for and wonder “how far these women will take it.”

Sometimes, it’s easy enough to ignore it and walk away, especially if you hear it in passing while at the store. Sometimes it’s your boss or a family member or someone you volunteer with saying these things directly to you….and it’s not so easy.

The challenge for me is staying calm because in those situations above and plenty of others, it’s not appropriate nor helpful to start yelling. As soon as I hear “woodwork” and “how far,” my blood starts boiling, and I probably can’t even speak coherently thus not really helping my cause so to speak. I find it helpful to think about these scenarios in advance and think up a few points to make, so I’m prepared. I know I probably won’t change their mind, but it’s important to challenge them, at least a little. Here’s a few of mine. Please share how you would handle this below!

  • I’m not so sure these women are just looking for glory…I can’t even tell you a single one of their names. This is true, I actually can’t (besides the celebrities). I wish I could because these women deserve more dignity than that, but at the same time it does sort of help us show that fame is not the agenda here.
  • Reports are surfacing that many people knew in these cases, so the women did report it – we just weren’t listening. In response to why now, where were these women before. They were always here, so this lack of widespread awareness is not their fault…it’s ours.
  • I’m sure there are plenty of men who can keep their hands to themselves, so we shouldn’t have to put up with this kind of behavior. The first part of that might be wishful thinking, but I think we need to show that groping, assaulting, harassing women is behavior to be marginalized.

These aren’t the strongest of arguments, and maybe some would disagree with my attempts to be polite about it, but like I said…we (probably) aren’t going to change their minds, so it seems that politely but firmly challenging some of their ideas is maybe the most effective.

What do you think?

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Stephanie (Harig) Prause

Stephanie Prause is a corporate communications, sustainability communications and investor relations professional, juggling a career she thrives in with being a mom and wife. She is also passionate about staying active (as in, she’ll lose her mind otherwise). Other interests include sampling craft beers, cooking from scratch and reading voraciously (at least for about 20 minutes before she passes out mid-sentence).

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • This is helpful . I have a hard time holding back anymore with people like this.

    For decades I kept my mouth shut and tried to respond like this. I didn’t want to say things that would offend my father, brother or uncles. So I kept my mouth shut. I did it out if respect. However, once inequality dramatically affected my life I refused to stay silent anymore. Not being permitted to even discuss inequality is the very definition of oppression. We can’t possibly solve any of this if we can’t even discuss it. It is silence that enables inequality to happen including the Harvey Weinstein’s of the world.

  • I am currently in the midst of my own #Metoo, which occurred with a church organist 11 years ago when I was 19. I recently wrote the church a letter outlining the grievances against me, and was told that my letter was “inflammatory and unsubstantiated by facts.” The church leadership proceeded to explain to me how difficult this has been on the man. He is now the victim and I am a vindictive crazy woman. It is amazing to me that the church, a supposed a safe haven, is harbouring and defending a molester.

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