ColumnistsD Kevin McNeirEditor's ColumnOpinion

EDITOR’S COLUMN: Something’s Fishy About Waiting So Long to Report Sexual Assault

The list just gets longer and longer it seems, as more and more women, and a few men, step forward claiming that they’ve been sexually harassed by prominent members of our society – from political icons to entertainment moguls. In some ways, it feels like Pandora’s box has been abruptly thrown wide open and from what I can see, there’s no end in sight. At least not for a very long time.

Now we’re hearing phrases like “zero tolerance policy” being bandied about both by officials at The Boston Symphony Orchestra and Rep. Nancy Pelosi on The Hill, among others.

Meanwhile, fingers continue to be pointed at men, most recently Russell Simmons, the co-founder of Def Jam Records and James Levine, the recently-suspended former music director of the New York Metropolitan Opera.

And while there’s no justification for sexual harassment, and certainly none for sexual assault, which is a crime in and of itself, I’m beginning to wonder “how long is too long” when calling out anyone who may have been the perpetrator of harassment. Because I’ve been thrown into a quandary, I asked my daughter, Jasmine, an educated, beautiful woman of 27, if I was overreacting. She said no adding that if anyone ever harassed her, she’d call her Daddy right away so he (that would be me) could handle things.

Levine has been charged by three men for abuse that occurred decades ago. Simmons stepped down from his companies after a woman said he sexually assaulted her in 1991. How long is too long?

Even U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama faces charges of sexual misconduct by multiple women that took place decades ago. One has to wonder what took these women and men so long to finally confront their alleged abusers. While I can never understand what women routinely face each day living in a world where men are generally in charge and often feel free to do whatever “floats their boat,” I can’t understand why anyone would remain silent for decades, allowing pain and humiliation to fester within.

Years ago, as a teenager, an older male cousin tried to rape me. Believe me, I fought brother off with every bit of strength I could muster. He failed in his attempt. And later that day, I told my parents. I didn’t wait until my 30th birthday. I didn’t hold off until the new millennium. I told my parents right away because I knew they would always be there to protect me from whatever evil might come my way.

Maybe Pandora’s box has been opened. Perhaps the time is finally ripe to seek justice for those who have been sexually harassed. But there’s something troubling, at least to me, about those who wait until seemingly opportune times to publicly lodge their complaints.

Sexual harassment is wrong, period. I just hope and pray that now women, and men, will begin to feel more at ease about confronting those who cowardly seek to use their influence and power for sexual gratification – immediately, if not sooner.

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D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Award-winning journalist and 21-year Black Press veteran, book editor, voice-over specialist and college instructor (Philosophy, Religion, Journalism). Before joining us, he led the Miami Times to recognition as NNPA Publication of the Year.

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3 Comments

  1. Interesting article. The primary problem with the premise of your article is that not all people are able to “fight off” the assault attempt. Consequently, their silence is the only defense that they “feel” that they control.

  2. I am not understanding why certain people keep saying why did they wait so long? I have heard from victims personally their story and everyone has a different reason so I can’t speak for every single victim. But when a friend tells me that she reported it to her job right after it happened and told all the higher ups and no action was taken, you begin to withdraw and lose faith in the system. He was so powerful and was such an integral part of her company that everyone wanted to look the other way. Also, in her particular case, her life was threatened literally. She was told if she went to the police, she would be killed and hearing stories (whether true or not) was enough to scare her into a very quiet life. Now, many years later hearing everyone coming out telling their story was encouraging. She hated living with this all bottled up inside and knowing other women were suffering as well. Now she is telling her story and I applaud her for her bravery. Please keep in mind that sexual assault is a crime whether it happened last week, last year or 30 years ago. Murder is still a crime no matter how many years ago it happened. Robbery is still a crime no matter how long ago it happened. If your valuable painting worth $100k or more was stolen 30 years ago and now its back in the news, you should be quiet because the crime happened so many years ago? I don’t understand why sexual assault is a crime that should no longer be reported or investigated because it happened a long time ago. Better late than never. My friend is going through a lot. She had to tell her entire family, her kids, her mom, her current husband her story and that she was coming out. The embarrassment and humiliation she felt all these years is unimaginable but regardless she is feeling a huge weight lifted off her shoulders so I say keep coming out with your stories of assault or abuse. There is strength in numbers and my hope is also that all women will come out immediately with any action of abuse instead of waiting so long but its their story to tell. Although I applaud you for sharing your story about your older male cousin who tried to rape you, you also stated you were a teenager living with your parents at the time so you had options readily available to you. My friend was single, living alone, no parents around to protect and rescue her. Everyone’s story is different so to judge or compare against your own is just not possible as they are so different. Please continue to share your thoughts. I firm believe we need to continue this dialogue and keep the debate open respectfully. A.C.

  3. The usual victim blaming language. The victim just HAD TO DO SOMETHING WRONG.
    Thank goodness Pandora’s box is open. You think your experience is the norm? IT IS NOT. Most children, teens and adults who report sexual harassment, abuse and assault are re-victimized, blamed, discouraged and silenced.
    You don’t know the half of it.
    Women encouraging their children to “keep quiet” about abuse to not upset the family front, finances or future.
    These same children grow up and may be sexually harassed how do you think they are going to respond?
    Women and/ or men who are a mail clerk, administrator or laborer report their grievance to whom?
    People in positions of authority and power with money cast a long shadow of threat to totally ruin a person’s life and reputation.
    I can go on and on but it is not necessary because at the end of the day there is something fishy about your article.
    My earnest and utmost hope is that victims and survivors continue to shine the blaring light on the centuries of injustice of sexual violence and the more you and other people try to make us SHUT UP the LOUDER WE RAISE OUR VOICES!
    #MeToo

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