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                      ©World Magazine of Ideas and the Arts™ — Winter 2018 Volume XVIII,  Issue 1

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Columns

Harassment

In the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, any woman who was raped was foolish to report it because unless she was dead or nearly so, she must have “wanted” it or “asked” for it or dressed in such a way that she “deserved” it. After the most traumatic experience, the policeMEN would grill and insult her trying to find any contradiction in her claim. In some parts of the world, they still stone or stab to death a woman who has been raped in order to “cleanse” the community. In a news item in the 70s, police found the dismembered body of a woman in the bathtub of a man’s apartment. “She was a prostitute,” one man replied, justifying the horror, ignoring that no civilization can survive if they allow people to do that to a dog.

 In the same city, there was a bar that called itself “The Silent Woman Tavern” with a plaque of a woman with her head cut off.

At the time, if a woman lived with a man without being married, she would be likely to be fired from her job, denigrated by his family and friends, shunned by most of the community, and believed to be a fool. “Who's going to buy the cow when they can get milk for free?” was the accepted “wisdom.” A woman was a cow to be either bought or used.

Sexual mores tend to take centuries, if not millennia, to change. That they have changed so rapidly in these times is dramatic.

Unchanged, however, has been the attitude toward harassment. A confusion has remained between harassing and dating, especially in a situation of power. In many schools and colleges instructors date students—that doesn’t sound so bad, but it usually works out really badly for the students and their children.

In one case in the 90’s, a PhD student in a major university found her lab vandalized and her work destroyed after declining her professor’s advances. Even though this  professor had harassed students a number of times before, and the administration was aware of it, they sided with him and made the student sign a legal document stating that she would never talk about the incident. She had been close to earning her doctorate in a very important field and was thrown out of the university for being harassed.

One of the most notorious cases involving child rape is the Penn State horrors in which Jerry Sandusky raped boys for at least fifteen years and probably much longer under the protection and enabling by head football coach Joe Paterno. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penn_State_child_sex_abuse_scandal

In a memo to Paterno, reported at the time, college officials hoped that Sandusky “would get the message” and not rape any more boys. That’s little different from hoping that a murderer would “get the message” and stop killing people. The NCAA took away the record of all of Paterno’s wins, but then restored them. Restoring is tantamount to another crime, and Penn State will remain in ignominy for many decades to come.

Sandusky’s years of crimes were finally stopped by graduate assistant Mike McQueary. He thought that he was fulfilling his obligation by reporting what he had seen to Paterno. He was the first person to do the right thing, but doing so has ruined his life. He is a hero and should be recognized as such. He had no way of knowing that Paterno was enabling Sandusky.

Rape and harassment put the victim’s mind in a cage. Account after account demonstrates that such attacks damage a psyche to the point of crippling the personality.

Things have changed a great deal since the 1950s, but they have not changed nearly enough.

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