Let’s talk about sexual harassment. It's such an important, and long overdue conversation for us to have as a nation.
First, we cannot let it become a partisan issue. Otherwise, it will become a political football and never be dealt with by our society, and we lose a crucial opportunity for meaningful reckoning, healing, and education. This affliction doesn’t fall along partisan lines — Roy Moore, John Conyers, Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Al Franken, Donald Trump, and the list goes on.
All inappropriate physical harassment perpetrated by those in power upon women (or men) is wrong and cannot be tolerated, and predatory behavior towards children/teenagers, as is alleged in Alabama regarding Roy Moore, should be treated for what it is — outright child molestation.
This cultural shift may well represent a watershed moment. It is likely that more women will speak out against prominent political and establishment figures, and they should. We've come to learn that predatory behavior doesn’t typically happen just once. When the first courageous person decides to speak out, we have to expect that more will follow and what we have been ignoring in our workplaces and professions for some time will begin to surface. We have to resist the natural impulse to give the benefit of the doubt for those we tend to like, but not those on the other side. Bad behavior by Democrats should not be viewed as less detrimental to us than by those we disagree with politically.
We had (and continue to have) this problem in our military. I lived through times in my career where the culture was such that speaking out was certainly not in the best interest of one's career. Be silent, look the other way, don't cause waves, brush it off...these were all coping mechanisms for many women in the military. But the military has made strides in this area and I could see a real positive difference during my 24-year career.
In my experience, the very best way to combat this type of behavior is for leaders to foster an environment of respect for all, and one where anyone can feel like he/she can come forward (without repercussion) should there be sexual harassment or assault. That means leaders must make known their expectations that the behavior will never be tolerated nor covered up, and of course follow through with it (even when the perpetrator is someone high ranking or well known to the leader).
Also, it was only when women began to rise in the officer and enlisted ranks that the systemic harassment and hazing began to subside in the units that had women. When the military ranks were largely an all-boys club, this behavior went largely unchecked. It was the promotion of more senior women officers and senior enlisted that made a difference. That's an incredibly important lesson. When we see more women in places like corporate board rooms and elected to office, it will be harder to get away with abusive behavior.
Finally, we have to look out for each other, regardless of gender. Each of us (men and women) can make a real difference when we stand up, say something, and refuse to look the other way. Often, it takes only one person to intervene. When the perpetrator is the person in power, we have to foster a society where people can come forward and hold their leaders publicly accountable too. That’s what we all need to do here.