Me, too, but what’s next?

To guys who are wondering how to respond to #metoo beyond an emoticon: When I was a freshman, a friend of mine was raped by someone else in our circle. Most people in the group could not believe that someone they liked could do that, and believed him when he said it was a misunderstanding, she was just crazy, etc. Faced with a choice between losing her friends or pretending it had never happened, she recanted her accusations and tried to rationalize what had happened to her. The guy went on to rape three other women that I know of.

When your knee-jerk reaction to hearing an accusation about your guy friend or colleague is that there must be a misunderstanding because he’s perfectly nice to you (you, who are not his victim type), you signal to victims that we cannot trust you to listen or help or intercede for us. When you run interference by making sure your friend or colleague isn’t alone with girls at parties or late at the office, you are enabling your friend, because you’re not confronting him about his behavior, you can’t watch him every second, and you’re signalling to victims that you know there’s a problem, but your priority is avoiding conflict by protecting your friend/colleague from the consequences of their actions.

Here’s what you CAN do. Listen to us. Believe us. Ask how we want to handle the situation and back us up. If you are in a position to confront your friend/colleague about their behavior, do so: he is far more likely to listen to you than to us, and if you really believe he’s a decent guy who just doesn’t understand appropriate boundaries, getting called out is the only way he is going to learn. If he still doesn’t change his behavior, extricate yourself from him. Men surrounded by friends, admirers, and contacts seem trustworthy, but if it’s clear no one wants to touch them with a ten-foot pole, it’s harder for them to convince new victims to trust them.