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Sexual Assault-What Do We Do Now?

Updated: Nov 7, 2018

It is hard to know even where to begin.  The past week, with the Dr. Ford - Kavanaugh hearings, and knowing that it was a year ago that the reports about Harvey Weinstein came to light and Bill Cosby has been sentenced to jail,  I have been quite distressed.

Anytime a person is harmed, I feel badly. Certainly, the closer the person is to me, the more distressed and concerned I am, but watching Dr. Ford was difficult. And then listening to the responses of others was also difficult. Those people who expressed belief and concern for her provided comfort, knowing that others could see how hard this would be for Dr. Ford to experience and then to talk publicly. Those who questioned whether someone should experience consequences for past behaviour really bothered me.

The most important question, for me, right now, is what are we going to do when people are sexually assaulted.  The current system sucks. Let me share an idea and ask you how you feel about it.

Let's set up a tribunal. The panel can be men and women, but more men than women, ethnically and socioeconomically diverse where people can come and tell their experiences of being sexually harmed. They would be listened to with compassion, believed and their words recorded. This could be done in private but those reporting could bring anyone with them for support. They could identify their abuser or not. They could receive continued support or counselling as desired.

The abuser/accused could come forward without penalty of legal consequences or publicity. The abuser could acknowledge and take responsibility for their actions, they could identify and express feelings of empathy and remorse and they could try to understand why they would harm anyone else for their own pleasure or need. They would be offered counselling or rehabilitation so that they would never harm another person in this way ever again.  They could make reparations to the victim or to society as a whole eg. clean bathrooms in a woman's shelter, participate in building a home for a family needing housing, provide financial aid to victims and their families for their education, etc.

Is that enough?  I don't know. I have never been sexually assaulted and therefore cannot speak for someone who has.  As a psychologist who has worked for over 40 years trying to help clients experience constructive meaningful relationships I know we can do better in caring for one another.

We know that listening to the Ford/Kavanaugh hearings that someone is lying. I believe Dr. Ford but the idea set out above provides a way for both to tell the truth, at the same time.

We all need to find a way to make things better. Let me know what you think.

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