Gender Inequality

In #MeToo, let’s not center the rehabilitation of perpetrators

In the past few years, social movements have been leading conversations across the world. A turning point for one of these movements was #MeToo, which was started in the infancy of Trump’s presidency after multiple allegations of sexual harassment were made against him. With this movement, women came forward with their stories regarding sexual assault and harassment from all walks of life and from every industry.

In the midst of the allegations, trials, and coverage there was one consistent theme that most #MeToo stories reverted to after the initial sharing of information. People focused on how we rehabilitate these men back into society, and whether it’s worth to ‘losing’ them because of their behavior.

We saw this with Aziz Ansari when he was accused of sexual misconduct by a young woman he had gone a date with. Many were unsure of why this would be called sexual harassment – with people commenting that he didn’t deserve it and it was actually the fault of the ‘young woman who didn’t know how to call a cab’ instead. Ansari was welcomed back into the spotlight after making a small (and arguably ingenuine) apology. It seemed that the question of how the young woman who went through the ordeal was doing or if there were any others was a question that was preferred to be left unanswered.

With Louis C.K the verdict seemed clear enough. But even then, many asked why Louis C.K’s return was shunned by some. When the comedian decided to make a comeback a year after his apology note where he allegedly sought forgiveness and recognized his wrongdoings, many comedians welcomed him back with open arms.  More people discussed when Louis C.K was allowed back onto the stage than why he should remain off of it, or better yet, what he could do to make genuine amends.

Out of the coverage regarding most of the allegations of sexual assault or harassment, some debated if what had occurred was indeed sexual harassment and often placed blame on the survivor instead of the perpetrator. In other coverage, there was a debate about how long the accused need to wait before returning to the spotlight, how long their apologies need to be or what sort of therapy sessions they need to attend.

In the midst of all the major coverage around these issues, the central theme remained the perpetrator and what they would need to do in order to gain redemption. This is the case with many figures, from Louis C.K. and Ansari to Kavanaugh. The question that was asked was: why should something like this stain their reputation forever?

In much of the discourse, there was less effort to question what could be done for the survivors of these crimes. In the midst of their #MeToo moment, their personal lives, character and the incidents were being discussed, few stopped to ask what a survivor may need for support as they endure this.

While many are concerned about the rehabilitation of the men that perpetrated the acts of sexual harassment and assault, fewer people asked what support survivors need in order to heal.

Rehab for survivors could look like free access to mental health services, gynecological examinations, physicals and more. This allows survivors to have time to heal, to assess the trauma both physically and mentally, something that should be on the forefront of any conversation about sexual harassment.

Instead of focusing on the rehab of perpetrators, let’s focus on supporting survivors by pushing for better and more accessible services for all. There should be support systems in place for survivors regardless of their occupation, race, age or income. This includes free access to healthcare, support, allotted sexual harassment related leave and more.

This will also allow different institutions such as the police force, healthcare or even education to re-examine how sexual assault is approached. This can be done by standardizing training around sexual harassment, making information sharing as accessible as possible and creating safe spaces for survivors.

These are the tangible steps that need to be central conversations about #MeToo. Supporting survivors is integral to creating actual change. It’s about time these conversations focused on the health of survivors instead of the egos of the perpetrators.

By Manaal Farooqi

Manaal is a writer and community organizer currently living in Toronto. She primarily writes about issues pertaining to violence against women, Islamophobia, South Asia and race.