I’m overwhelmed by the sexual accusations and crimes filling up the airwaves and splashed across the front pages. A massive amount of coverage — not of one incident, but of a seemingly unending list of horrors. One recent day I sat before my TV, transfixed by the back-to-back reports — first about Patriots owner Robert Kraft charged for prostitution in a Florida sex trafficking scheme; then rhythm and blues singer R. Kelly arrested for 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse; plus Catholic Cardinal George Pell convicted in an Australian court of sexually assaulting two 13-year-old choirboys in the 1990s. Rounding out these reports is news of a former Trump campaign worker filing a federal lawsuit charging candidate Trump with forcibly kissing her. And finally, a conversation with producer and filmmaker Dan Reed discussing his four-hour HBO documentary featuring two men claiming the late pop singer Michael Jackson regularly molested them when they were young boys. My head hurt from the whiplash of absorbing this dirty laundry list of stories complete with tawdry, salacious and disgusting detail.
Ready or not, we are having a national conversation about sexual harassment and sexual crimes. #MeToo may have kicked open the door to force these uncomfortable realities out into the open, but it’s all on the table now. What was once conversation limited to victims' advocacy groups or careful sharing between friends and family members has moved into public discussion. Actually, more like vigorous public debate — a debate which has pushed us to a better understanding about perpetrators and those upon whom they prey. We know that power is the common element in these situations. And that the most powerful — usually the most moneyed — have for a long time been able to use that privilege as protection. But while the accused can no longer escape retribution by mere denial, we still seem to have internalized a general suspicion that the accusers who come forward are not to be believed.
As I’ve been thinking about all this, there is news that more than 4,000 migrant children reported they were abused while in government custody, information collected during the last four years by the Department of Health and Human Services. And from a maximum-security prison in suburban Philadelphia, the first public statement from convicted sex offender Bill Cosby: The 81-year-old former comedian noted his “temporary residence” was like that of “some of the greatest political prisoners — Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.” Even the new advocates can disappoint. The head of the Hollywood-backed campaign Time's Up resigned last week when her son was accused of sexual assault.
I believe the old saying that what’s done in the dark will come to light. These latest reckonings have been a long time coming — too long, for the survivors who’ve been harmed and tormented by the memories. For their sake, we can’t let the shocking volume of these outrageous stories make us look away, no matter how much we might want to.