Exploitation Happens Wherever There Is An Imbalance Of Power
The #MeToo movement sprang up spontaneously after the wretched, predatory behaviour of Harvey Weinstein was exposed by the many women he has ogled, groped, exploited and assaulted. When his response was less than stellar (“It was a different time.”) and exculpatory (“All men do these things.”), other victims of sexual exploitation channelled their rage into forward momentum, creating the hashtag “MeToo”.
This has resulted in the ‘outing’ of some very powerful men. To date, as I’ve reviewed the cases of the men who have been exposed, the majority of them have a history littered with the abuse of power through sexual exploitation, but to protect financial positions, the victims in the history of each of these men have been ignored, discredited, threatened, or bought off.
Time magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’ is a group – The Silence Breakers – women and men who have ‘blown the whistle’ on these predators, and I applaud this choice. It takes great courage to stand up and speak of things that mark you as a victim. It takes great courage to speak of things that are shameful. It takes great courage to speak of things that acknowledge exploitation and coercion. And it takes great courage to be facing a ‘collective Goliath’ – the entire system that protects and covers up the serial predation by these powerful men.
Oscar Wilde famously stated, “Everything in the world is about sex, except sex. Sex is about power.” This is an important point to introduce here. Media has used sex, sexiness, attraction, and virtual sexual exploitation to sell everything from art to perfume to zippers. You name it; someone has sexualized that thing, or its use, or its acquisition, using sex – overtly or covertly. Everything is about sex.
Sex, however, is about power. (Let’s make a quick distinction between the ‘sex’ I’ve just been writing about, and intimacy. True intimacy is nurturing the ‘We’ of a committed relationship and encompasses reciprocity, equality, and affection. Sex, even without coercion or exploitation is rarely about intimacy.)
So. The “#MeToo …and You” part. Distilling what others had written historically, Lord Acton stated in 1887, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Men whose belief in the protective insulation of that power allowed them to feel safe in committing acts of coercion, aggression, and violence against the powerless.
The Silence Breakers have allowed the victims of sexual abuse all over the world to speak up and break the silence of the shame and trauma they have experienced at the hands of powerful and unscrupulous men. Sexual exploitation happens everywhere. Research data tells us that this is true regardless of socio-economic status, cultural, geographical, or racial divides. Truth: where there is unchecked power, there is exploitation.
This movement is desperately needed for the ‘ordinary’ victims whose experience involves a predator much closer to home. Exploitation happens wherever there is an imbalance of power. This could be within the family, on the job, at the gym, or in relationship. Predation and exploitation are possible when the balance of power – physically, emotionally, or financially – is uneven and an individual with power exploits it for his own benefit.
If you are “#MeToo” know that it is not mandatory that you speak up publicly or that you must name your abuser or in any other way expose him in order to find help. There are ways of finding healing which don’t include exposing yourself or anyone else. You can be a ‘Silence Breaker’ for yourself by simply acknowledging the truth/reality of your situation and asking for help.
Whatever the circumstances of the exploitation – no matter who is doing the exploiting – confidential help is available. Take heart from those who are “#MeToo” and be a Silence Breaker …for your own sake.
Dr. Susannah-Joy Schuilenberg, RPD, MPCC-S, DAAETS, ACS