Many women in my life are sharing stories in personal conversations and on social media, about experiences of sexual assault. So I want to respond to those women here.

I am learning, or rather re-learning with renewed force, that Institutions like family, church, school, workplaces, neighbourhoods, and sports teams are simultaneously places where you experience love and safety, and where you experience these harms, mostly kept secret for so many reasons.

I am trying to believe that the vast majority of healthy males (80% or more?) enjoy and prefer consensual and mutual satisfying sex and would not be violent even if drunk. It’s not in them.

This reality (or what I hope is true) is obscured when a very harmful minority (could be as high as 20%- but I hope it is less) are capable of being sexually violent for sport – as a performance for each other. As a way of having fun at the expense of women.

This violent minority belong to every faith and no faith, every political party and no party, every race and no race, and they are alumni of every school we have loved (including my own Yale, Harvard, and UW-Madison) and no school at all.

While many do it as they struggle with addiction, others do it stone cold sober…. and laugh about it the next morning.

Some feel entitled, some live in denial, and others carry the memories of what they have done with shame – and maybe a never again.

Then there is a larger group – the majority of males who remain silent when they see harassment (from jokes to cruel remarks) or hear verbal disrespect and violent threats. By majority I mean not a vast majority -my estimate is that they are a simple mathematical majority – the 51%.

So that leaves a bunch of men – could be 49%? – who might just feel strongly enough about respecting women and all people – as beings entitled to bodily safety in their daily activities. And they think that we have the right to be as sexually active as we want on our own terms and always consenting.

Are they are willing to put politics aside and simply say “I believe all women deserve respect.”

“I believe all women deserve respect.”

I and many others need to hear expression this basic core value at this time.

Having escaped physical violence myself and recognizing my relative privilege I don’t often speak about, or let myself count, the number of times I have been threatened with violence. But this week I have been on the edge of making that list….The near misses, times I was naive but protected by someone, times I have made a clever escape. The stress related to the constant low grade vigilance that is part of the job of being a woman. The many times I just stayed home.

Anyway, and for the record:

I believe Anita Hill. (Always did!)
I believe Chrissy Ford.
I believe Debbie Ramirez.

…… And most importantly – today and every day – I believe the women from all the places and stages of my life who have told me their stories. At a kitchen table, in the back of a car, right after it happened, or years later. Or maybe there was just a simple “me too” on Facebook.

To all of you — you are beautiful and worthy of love and respect.

To all of you — you are beautiful and worthy of love and respect. The shame and blame belong elsewhere – with the perpetrator and with all who contribute to the culture of disrespect that made him feel entitled, that made him laugh at you, and that made him, and those around him, think that sexual violence is an acceptable normal and unavoidable part of becoming a man.