By Dr. Tiger Devore
Women are lining up again to tell their story of another well-known, powerful man sexually harassing or assaulting them in a work environment. This usually has continued for decades as another man is exposed taking advantage of women in his position of power. Many women find out that the man they’d been getting to know professionally or personally intended to make them his next victim.
These famous and powerful men wield great power and influence. They can change the life of anyone by giving them access to a kind of success that might otherwise be hard to achieve. Too often, the man in power finds that people will allow them to be abusive and even go along with the inappropriate relationship for the benefits it brings to the person.
These men, because of their level of accomplishment, feel entitled to live outside the rules. They believe that showing respect for others doesn’t apply to them and that they can expect others to treat them with an eagerness to serve for what can be given in exchange. Their success can also isolate them so that the women they encounter may represent an important, even rare, opportunity for intimate connection. Many of these men may take advantage since they crave the attention of others that seems out of reach.
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There may be a kind of desperation that these men feel regarding contact with women. Often the men who stand accused of these assaults have a ritual they follow again and again and that the women they victimize report a haunting consistency of their behavior.
Cases played out in the media get the attention, but most women can recall a time when a man who had some power, whether a boss, supervisor, teacher, professor or someone in management, imposed their sexual needs onto the relationship.
Women in these situations are usually confused, angered and frightened when this happens. They clearly felt that sexuality should have nothing to do with the relationship. Women will make weak objections often because they don’t want to harm or destroy the relationship, but they just don’t want sex to be a part of it. This encourages these men. I work with women helping them to become prepared in advance, to feel confident that they know what to say and how to say it to avoid any misconception. I teach women to make it very clear about boundaries and refusal for the relationship to be anything but professional, respectful and cooperative.
Direction and limitation of the interaction must be done firmly. Women must understand that they will NOT be able to control the interaction after the boundary has been pushed beyond the appropriate limit. The worst mistake women can make is to tell themselves that they can deal with it and that they will be okay. Clarity is the key.
This is a new time in our society and all of us can change the outcome now. Gone is the “old boy’s network” or “men will be men.” Real men and women can interact in a professional manner for the success of all.