Truth sometimes hurts. Last week, it hurt quite a bit. Someone whom I respect, Sen. Al Franken, was accused of — and admitted to — forced kissing and groping of a colleague when he was a comedian in 2006. The victim, Leeann Tweeden, came forward to embolden other victims — perhaps of Franken, but also of others — to do the same. A second woman has since spoken out and said Franken inappropriately touched her while they were having their photo taken at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010.
The senator owned up to his behavior with Tweeden, apologized, and agreed with his colleagues that a Senate Ethics Committee should review the matter. Ms. Tweeden accepted his apology.
It seems a new truth of sexual “transgression” comes to light each day — sometimes it’s people we might expect, others we’d never imagine. I can’t help but wonder who is quaking in his boots right now, wondering whether the woman he propositioned or rubbed up against or coerced into bed will be the next to come forward. Whether he’s deciding to deny it in the face of overwhelming accusations like Senate candidate Roy Moore and Hollywood studio executive Harvey Weinstein, or whether he’s planning to 'fess up as did comedian Louis C.K. and Franken.
I think we’ll find that history will be kinder to those who do the latter. And those guys out there who are boot-quaking would do well to do the same. Beat your victims to the punch — come clean and apologize. While your actions may have come in a different atmosphere of “open secrets” and “locker room talk,” we’re not in that time anymore, and copping to your behavior will go far toward acknowledging that.
Show through your words and your actions that you have changed. Even better, take it one step further: Make a hefty donation to an organization like 9 to 5 (https://donate.9to5.org) that is working to stop these crimes from happening in the first place. Give to organizations that work to empower women in different fields like Women in Film (https://womeninfilm.org) or She Should Run (https://sheshouldrun.nationbuilder.com/donate).
Though the victims seem to be predominantly women harassed or assaulted by men, they are not exclusively so. Maybe Kevin Spacey could make a monthly contribution to Lambda Legal (www.lambdalegal.org/donate) or the Human Rights Campaign (www.hrc.org/resources/sexual-assault-and-the-lgbt-community) for the rest of his life. A constant reminder to him and others that he acknowledges his guilt and wishes to change.
When Apartheid fell in South Africa, wise leaders established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission realizing their country needed a way to come to terms with its atrocities and begin to heal. While I doubt our country is ready to establish anything so progressive, individuals can take a page from South Africa’s book. Truth is, for every #metoo post of victimization, there’s a perpetrator. I have to believe they aren’t all without remorse.
Kim Suhr is a writer and small business owner who lives in Wales, Wis.
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