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1 March 2018

And that is what it appears to be lately. Stand up, make a claim of historic sexual harassment or assault, and destroy someone’s life on the spot. It’s possible every single claim is genuine, but somehow I don’t quite believe it, AND that ISN’T THE POINT ANYHOW! What IS the point is that the names of those accused on such counts should be suppressed until after a conviction. Look at the possibilities. In the 60s, I worked a host of different jobs, in some of them, while i WAS NOT sexually harassed, I had reason to really dislike either my boss or one of my fellow male workers. So what if now, some fifty years later I stood up and worked off a sense of injustice by announcing that I had been harassed?
I go to the police. I say that he did this, that, and the other, I give chapter and verse. He is arrested, changed, and his name is out there. His family, his wife, his children, and his grandchildren are devastated. There is a trial, if I am sufficiently convincing, (and being a writer of over 40 published books I know how to tell a believable story)
this man against whom I have held a grudge for 50+ years is convicted and I have justice. Or do I?
What if all I had was that originally I was ill-treated and over-worked and have never forgiven that. If I took such a complaint to the police, store management, or the employment tribunal, after 50 years, I’d be laughed out of the room. Why is a claim of sexual harassment different? Why is it that if I complained of ordinary wrongful treatment a sort of law of ‘too old a complaint’ operates, it is said that I have no proof, it’s my word against his, I should have complained at the time, and I have no witnesses. And because it IS only my word against his, I can gain no redress. Yet if I say he harassed me, I am instantly believed. His life is ruined whether or not he is even charged. And even if he isn’t charged, I’ve won, and he’s paid. The entire process these days bothers me. I can’t help but feel in some cases people are motivated more by revenge for something other than sexual assault or harassment, or by a possible settlement, or by a desire for publicity. What can a person so accused say, but that it isn’t true. And find they are automatically disbelieved in the current climate. How fair is that?
And as an aside. In one of the many jobs I held while I was in my teens, in one I WAS sexually harassed. I worked in a large chain store in Wellington’s Courtney Place. The manager there was about 23, and I was about 17 and stacked the shelves out back when the new merchandise arrived. I usually worked alone, and one afternoon he came in, stood by my ladder and started to run his hand up my leg. He passed my knee and I took down a wooden pencil case from the shelf I was filling and hit him solidly over the head. His “You’re fired,” and my “I quit” where pretty much simultaneous. I’ve never felt the need to go to the police after so many years, why should I? The memory of that loud thump, the feeling of impact on my hand, and his yelp of pain, is balm enough.
But even knowing of my own case, of other cases friends endured, and how often there was casual sexism fifty years ago in the workplace, I still wonder, as yet more claims are made and people pilloried, if what we’re seeing is honest justice… or a lynch mob’s vengeance?

2 Comments »

  1. Years ago as a Navy clerk I had a problem with this young woman I was expected to work closely with. The problem? I looked too much like an uncle that had sexually harassed her when she was young. Me? I couldn’t help looking the way I did and having to be real cautious around her without knowing why until someone told me. And I wasn’t even physically interested in her. I just wanted to do my job.

    Comment by Rodney Marsden — 1 March 2018 @ 15:48

  2. I agree with you, Lyn. There is a growing double-standard of a different sort from what there used to be: people expect to have moral standards as loose as they want, yet will shoot down a celebrity or politician for “harassment” either at the time or decades later; parents let pre-teen girls dress in a trendy way that “sexualizes” them, yet are angry when their daughters are seen as sex objects… and so on.
    In my teens we didn’t mind being whistled at across the street — mind you, we didn’t expect it to be anything other than superficial interest not-to-be-followed-up.
    However, what this “shoot-the-tall-poppy” season seems to bring out into the open is that some people, once they become adored by the public, seem to adopt an attitude that “What I want, I now can get” and take it as of right.

    Comment by Felicity Logan — 1 March 2018 @ 18:49

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