SEX abuse and leadership – observations and a plea

With the Cosby, Trump, Franken, Moore, Louis CK, Weinstein, Ailes, Conyers, Rose…outrages alive and festering, all of us in families and other organizations have a chance to learn and do better.  The lessons pertain to sex, power and yet go beyond these.  For reflection:

    1. Power infects and power protects the offenders. If the men listed above had done what they did as first line supervisors, they would have been checked more easily. So, if YOU are in power, you need to watch your “brothers,” especially your big brothers.  Call it out.  Who else is going to check them?  Really. When Trump and Moore say, they are different than Franken and Louis CK because the latter admitted it and the former don’t admit it, you can see the problem. To whom do Trump and Moore answer?  Who will hold them in check? By contrast, if it were me, my dean would have me in his office in less than a day – as indeed he should.
    2. It takes two.  It’s nearly impossible to be taken seriously alone, especially if you’re up against power. Allies are not optional but required. If a woman (or in rare cases, a man) is talking about being abused or harassed, leadership means you need to be there, listening with an open mind and heart.
    3. Leadership necessitates vigilant inclusion.  My brother Pat, a CEO told his employees: You don’t have to worry about any mistake you make, because it’s just a case for learning, except that which is illegal or harassing of others. For that, he told them, you will be fired. Authorities control the culture and set the tone.  Do you? Do I?
    4.  All deserve “due process.”  In a civil proceeding, we have clear rules like “preponderance of the evidence,” and in a criminal proceeding, “beyond a reasonable doubt,” and a right to counsel and a jury.  In the workplace and the court of public opinion there also need to be standards – both for accused and accusers. Stand for due process.
    5. Some problems are deeply systemic and do not yield alone to technical solutions.  The evolutionary biology and cultural upbringing of men is complicated. It is great that women (and men) are speaking out about abusive behaviors.  Shame and blame and punishment are appropriate sanctions for acts that cause innocent people pain, and they send an important social message. The acts of the men in the first paragraph were theirs, and so they deserve to be investigated and brought to justice.  But the adaptive issues run deeper and are complicated. One such major issue is that “hurt people hurt others.” And there are a LOT of hurt boys out there. Thus,
      Ed DeJesus and Jeff Fleischer*

      the last point:

    6. Men need to talkWe need to talk about how we allow boys to be hurt – by their tough father figures, and also by women who can belittle them. How do we help these boys when they are hurt? Yes! We men need to stand with women.  And yes: We also need to stand with boys. I’ve always wondered, for instance, about the deep social conscience that mourns the loss of the lives of “innocent women and girls.”  What is implied in that? That men and boys aren’t innately innocent?  Men are perpetrators in large part because we continue to socialize them to be able to protect, defend, control and kill – in sports, business, and of course war.   We men should denounce the bullies and abusers – maybe especially when they abuse boys, some of whom will become bullies themselves.

And ALL of us men need to talk – in the first person singular – about my “dirty” little secrets.  How have I been socialized – and allowed myself – and,  yes, struggled with – objectifying women, fearing women, needing to control women.  I have these issues.  I suspect I am not alone.  And, I have choices.  I can project my shame, judge other evil men, quietly nod with the rightly indignant and hurt women, and thus, inadvertently heighten my individual and collective shame at being a man.  I am proud to be me – and that is for me male – and parts of that are awesome, noble, powerful, and beautiful.  But I need to talk with and listen to other men about the darker facets of being raised a man, otherwise I can’t really

Lead with my best self.

*I included this picture of Ed DeJesus, because he was one of the first men I had a really deep man-to-man, heart-to-heart conversation; and later I saw him talk to my son in a way that EMBODIED Ed’s incredible philosophy of supporting boys. He is with Jeff Fleischer, CEO of Youth Advocacy Programs which was started in 1975 to get juvenile boys out of adult prisons. I love this picture.

  • Dan,
    A very thought provoking piece. Time to respect other people as individual human beings and not classify them as part of this or that “group” and also to examine how I really think about treating someone else.

  • I agree wholeheartedly with Phil. However Dan, lumping President Trump in with these other monsters is going too far. He touched no one! He made an off color comment, as we all have, with some buddies one upping each other! Although completely inappropriate, he did not rape, touch, assault, or use tax payer dollars to hush and pay off victims.
    Pretty sure characters like Bill Clinton and Edward Kennedy deserved a mention on your list long before an off color comment by President Trump.

    • Nancy,
      Why are you arguing with me?
      I think we can all agree this is NOT a partisan issue. It’s a messed-up-men-issue.
      Teddy Kennedy’s behavior on Chappaquiddic was tragic. No question. Bill Clinton clearly had major issues; Monica Lewinsky though of age was under his sway; that was wrong.
      As to Trump, his offenses are documented much more than others on the list. See here for a journalistic review. Nancy, he BRAGGED about seeing all the beautiful naked women behind stage at Miss Whatever. That could have been YOUR daughter or mine. Does that not make your skin crawl? Or do you really not believe it? Come on, Nancy. You’re too smart to write this . . . no matter how much FOX News you watch.

  • Dan,
    Thank you for this thoughtful piece that allows us the space to reflect upon several “root causes” of our current state of behaviors. I would like to add #7…Setting the stage for how we treat one another starts at home, in our neighborhoods and communities. I only have questions…perhaps, you can unpack them? How do we give our sons and daughters the skills and the language to recognize and mitigate the small, seemingly innocent acts that are the precursors or warning signs to inappropriate behavior? How can we enable people to practice navigating power relationships, setting expectations, getting help or getting out, and how and when to speak-up?

    • Your questions are great. The first was:
      “How do we give our sons and daughters the skills and the language to recognize and mitigate the small, seemingly innocent acts that are the precursors or warning signs to inappropriate behavior?”
      We model the way! WE the ADULTS model the “skills and the language” to do so.
      We say, “I feel very uncomfortable when you say X, Y, Z about that woman, because I think you are reducing her to an object, and I know you can do better than that.”
      We don’t tell the other that they are wrong or bad, only that their action caused us come hurt, and that we hope the other might do better by us, so that we can understand and respect them.
      That seems a decent – if not simple start.
      This type of communication should be taught throughout elementary and secondary schools.

  • Good article as usual, Dan. As a victim of abuse including sexual I’m not important so I was never allowed to be heard. I was repeatedly locked up to be kept quiet. I was also repeatedly falsely accused (not sexual) but it’s why I go both ways. Example-I know the men could be telling the truth but I know the accusers could be the ones telling the truth. Am I wrong how I feel? But I am leaning more towards the victims. I am trying to get my voice out there because I’m still a nobody and it’s eating me up inside what was done to me; falsely accuse and being a victim of abuse. I need to be heard. I feel for the victims and why they kept quiet. You’re not taken serious, you’re called mental, youre called a liar, you get more done to you for speaking, in my case even locked up. Many don’t understand that, they can’t unless they were victims. The place I work at in the winter I put up with it last winter and I’m going back when they open again. I want to buy a house. I realize that is the way it’s suppose to be.
    Good afternoon, Dan. Keep on writing.

  • Dan, This is a great article, about one of the more complicated issues of human behavior. Power or that is, unfettered authority and control over others is a leadership issue which is central to leadership. How to lead, or be in a leadership role, without bringing on an undue burden, or abusing, intentionally or not. To me one question is how much is human nature versus how much is learned? Complex.

    I cannot get the link to Trump offenses to work.

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