#MeToo

In October, a story broke in The New York Times that would quickly capture the attention of the entire nation. Ashley Judd, in a very candid interview, spoke openly with a Times reporter about the culture of sexual abuse and harassment in Hollywood. Specifically, she was finally going “on record” about the time that powerful movie mogul Harvey Weinstein offered to help her acting career in exchange for sexual favors. And the surprising thing about her revelation is that the harassment she was recounting in late 2017 had actually occurred more than 10 years before.

Judd then went on to explain the 10-year silence. Although she wanted to report the incident immediately, she encountered two obstacles. First, there was no one to report it to. And second, she was afraid that it would be her word against his and she knew that her voice would not be heard. If an actress from an influential family had no place to take her complaint and she was afraid to speak out, what must it be like for other women.

But the years went by and for a long time, she was just another victim of the worst kept secret in the world — that powerful people, and especially powerful men — are able to exploit girls and women and get away with it. That, of course, is not new; the subjugation and harassment of women has existed for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. There is a long history of male dominance embedded in many cultures. Even some of the world’s major religions justify and promote men’s rule over women.

As a result, the male voice typically prevails and part of this legacy is that the victims are often blamed. Sometimes, the blame is direct (she was dressed too provocatively; she was drunk) and other times it is subtle (it was just a joke; I meant it as a compliment). But the message is clear: if you accuse a man of assault or harassment, be prepared for an assault on your character and morals.

The tendency to blame the victim and minimize the problem have contributed to a long history of silence. Women who have been the target of this abuse have had to remain in hiding, fearful of being identified as a liar or as someone who is “trying to get a payday.” In an interesting blog post I recently read, the author made the argument that perhaps one of the reasons that relatively few women are in positions of corporate leadership is because they leave positions in an attempt to avoid harassment. As such, they are unable to gain the tenure needed to rise through the ranks and into leadership positions.

It was this injustice, it seems, that finally led Judd to gain the courage to speak out. It was the courage to risk damaging her career by challenging a powerful Hollywood figure. It was the courage to say that this has gone on long enough. And it was the courage to fight for women who did not have the choices she had; for all those office workers, hotel maids, and fruit pickers living from paycheck to paycheck who tolerated abuse or risk losing their only source of income.

The #MeToo movement and its successor, #TimesUp, is critical to the evolution of our culture. In a recent publication by the American Psychological Association, victims of abuse and trauma were encouraged to write their stories as a form of therapy or catharsis. The author notes that writing about the traumatic event helps to process it and work through repressed emotions.

Similarly, talking about one’s trauma helps to find relief. By talking to others who have had similar experiences, one can find courage, hope, and unity. They can realize that they are not alone; that they have an internal reserve of strength; and that they can survive.

As a man who was raised by a strong woman, who married an equally strong woman, and who is raising daughters, I hope that this movement continues to grow. The sexual exploitation of women is not just a problem for women to solve. It is very much our problem to solve as well. Men must stop tolerating the inequality that has plagued society for far too long. We must join our mothers, our wives, and our daughters and insist that we have had enough and that #TimesUp.

Dr. Berney, a licensed psychologist with Psychological Associates of Central Florida in Lakeland, is a national speaker and the co-author of "Handbook for Raising an Emotionally Healthy Child." Listen to Dr. Berney's podcast, "The Mental Breakdown,” on iTunes and YouTube. You can submit questions or topics to Dr. Berney by email at drberney@pacflorida.com.