Individuals can stop sexual predation


Rachel Edelstein

The list of sexual predators is long and distinguished.


Do egotistical people seek power? Or do powerful people become egotistical? When people use their position of power to leverage unwanted touch or an unwilling audience to a sexual encounter, the victims have little recourse.  We inherited a culture that teaches us to blame ourselves if we experience sexual assault, and to operate under a code of silence if we are aware of others committing sexual assault.

We can tell victims over and over to stop self-blaming. And we can teach young women, and all genders, how to protect themselves. Don’t dress provocatively, don’t drink too much, don’t travel alone. But these are Band-Aids, not a solution. In fact, these Band-Aids reinforce problematic gender stereotypes that inhibit us from questioning our inherited culture.

It may seem overwhelming to consider how to make changes at the top. What can be done to stop a rich and powerful man from abusing his privilege in the privacy of his office or bedroom?

How do we stop all the other sexual predators from making the series of choices that bring them to the point of committing assault?

One answer lies in that series of choices. If you witness the actions a predator takes, say something. Choosing to remain silent is enabling the problem. As the Weinstein Effect quickens a national reckoning of sorts, this is the time to fuel our ability to call out sexual predation when we see it.

It’s not easy, and the stakes are high. Being accused of sexual assault, for example, has serious consequences, the least of which being a ruined reputation.

We need better language for these transgressions. Using “sexual assault” as an umbrella term for a wide variety of actions is unhelpful. We can’t treat unwanted touch the same way we treat violent rape, though we must be equally vocal about both and everything in between.

There was a time when we didn’t know that you could be raped on a date or by your spouse. Now we know.

We used to keep silent about sexual misconduct in Silicon Valley, among Hollywood moguls or politicians. Now we don’t.

Let’s develop more words and practices to call out and address our colleagues, acquaintances, family and friends to protect current and future victims of sexual predation. Enablers used to keep silent about sexual predation. Now we won’t. We can’t.