Balancing #MeToo

For months I have been biting my proverbial tongue. I have been itching to write a column about an aspect of #MeToo that has been all to frequently ignored by women and men alike.

The reasons for desisting are many fold:

  1. #MeToo HAD to happen – the stand by the women of Hollywood against their abusers had to happen because their stories needed to be told
  2. #MeToo had the potential to give women strength to say that they had been abused at one point or another, to give an idea of the scale of the offending, and it did
  3. #MeToo needed some time to unfold – if people thought it would be all over in a couple of days, they were wrong and those perpetrators that hoped it would blow over deserved to find out otherwise

But now it is time bring some focus to another aspect of #MeToo that is forgotten, ignored or simply not realised. It is time to recognise that whilst the vast majority of sexual offending is against women, by men, it is a two way street.

Men also abuse men. Sometimes women do it too.

Whereas women struggle in many countries because the judiciary and/or the authorities are predominantly male, the challenges a male face are different. Part of it is based on expectations of a male:

  1. That they will be tough and take the abuse without being a “sissy”
  2. That it will simply be shrugged off as a “male thing”
  3. That the male probably wanted it

Just as a female can say “NO”, so can a male. Just as a female has a right to push away someone who commit unwanted touching, so can a male. Just as a female can be scarred for life by the abuse, so can a male.

It is not okay. 

Cardinal George Pell, who is to be tried for alleged crimes against boys and young men in his church is a classic example. Many men have alleged dreadful crimes against their bodies by Cardinal Pell. Cardinal Pell was a major force in the Australian Catholic Church. He fought massively to wrest control of it from more progressive elements and to restore its orthodox leadership. He was admired by many for his conservative leadership. But, the allegations against Cardinal Pell are as grave as they are numerous. If proven, Cardinal Pell will experience a suitably massive downfall from a position of incredible power.

Another example, closer to home is a doctor who has been found guilty of numerous sexual offences against men, and thus far against one woman. Dr Rakesh Chawdhry was found guilty a few days ago on 12 charges of sexual misconduct. He used his authority, his position as a General Practitioner to get men into intimate and ultimately improper positions to enable his sexual offending. In much the same way Dr Morgan Fahey abused female cabin crew when they went for their physical exams, this doctor has abused numerous men. Like Mr Fahey, he has been sentenced to significant time in prison, though it remains to be seen how long he will end up serving – Mr Fahey served little more than half of his sentence, much to his victims understandable disgust.

Let me be very clear to anyone reading this. I am NOT attempting to deny the scale of the abuse that has gone on against women by men in positions of authority, and which no doubt, despite #MeToo, continues in many parts of the world to this very day. Nor am I attempting to downplay the nature of the offending against them, which they will have to live with for the rest of their lives. This, all the while knowing that the perpetrator of these ghastly offences has a high chance of getting away, just because of the difficulty bringing the perpetrator to trial.

But it is just as important to note men suffer sexual abuse too. Men are often faced with derision for coming forward. If they do come forward, will they be taken seriously by the authorities? Will society treat them with the same understanding and compassion we expect it to treat female victims? If they come forward, successfully pursue court action against them and win, what will the judge sentence the perpetrator to? Some, like females have been abused multiple times. Trying to get through each day without some sort of reminder of what happened to them is a challenge.

It might not happen in my lifetime, but I would like to think that one day, both male and female abuse survivors will be accorded the due respect when they make allegations.

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