There are multiple reasons people don’t report sexual harassment or stop it occurring, and one social media user has no time for victim-blaming.
The current conversation around sexual harassment, assault and abuse may be a welcome and long-overdue addressing of a society-wide issue – but any significant shift in attitude takes time.
And so, alongside the outpouring of personal experiences since producer Harvey Weinstein was publicly accused by several women, there have also been many of the usual comebacks from those seeking to victim-blame.
Why didn’t she just say no? Why didn’t he leave the room? Why did she continue to work with her attacker? Why didn’t he report it at the time? Why did she wear such a tight dress?
Now one woman has responded to such attitudes with a Twitter thread explaining why ‘force’ isn’t always a physical matter.
Clementine Ford, a Melbourne-based author, addresses the idea that many of the assault victims now telling their stories could have “just walked out” and “weren’t forced” to partake in the acts they accuse their abusers of.
Speaking about women in particular, given the issue disproportionately affects women and there’s a historical context of a patriarchal society, Ford begins her missive by pointing out “women are conditioned for years to make sure they preserve men’s feelings, particularly about sex.
“I’m seeing so many men insisting that any of these women could have ‘just walked out’ and that they ‘weren’t forced’. They think a) women have the same power as them and b) force is just physical.
“Women, on the other hand, can relate implicitly to why women would stay in the room. It might be partly shock. It might be partly fear. But it is definitely, definitely always about minimising embarrassment to the man.”
Ford goes on to explain that common reactions to women reporting assault have a major impact, such as not being believed due to a lack of witnesses and being told they’re overreacting.
4. And that's after we've figured out what's happening is actually happening and not just MADE UP IN OUR HEADS like we're told every time we report dodgy behaviour.— Clementine Ford (@clementine_ford) November 10, 2017
5. Even afterwards, we will question our own recollection because we've been trained to do that too. We must have imagined it. Was it really that bad? Maybe he meant something difference? Did I overreact? Don t cause a fuss.— Clementine Ford (@clementine_ford) November 10, 2017
The thread was initially in response to allegations against US comedian Louis CK, who later admitted in a statement that the reports that he had masturbated in front of several women were true.
His apology has attracted widespread criticism for repeatedly mentioning how much the women in question “admired” him, implying that was the reason behind their silence, and how he’d excused his behaviour as OK “because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first.”
Ford then sums it up saying: “And in all that self doubt lies the preservation of men’s feelings.
“We might be overreacting so don’t make him feel bad. We might be misinterpreting so don’t accuse him. He might not mean harm, so don’t make things awkward.
“I just don’t think enough men realise how much abuse and harassment happens because women are told all the time to be f**king nicer to men.”
Just as a hugely popular Twitter thread earlier this month pointed out the ridiculousness of many people’s attitudes to sexual assault by comparing it to stabbing someone, the message has struck a chord with the online community.
Ford’s thread has, at time of writing, been favourited almost 9,000 times and retweeted around 3,500 times, with her Facebook post on the same subject racking up almost 3,000 shares.
Meanwhile, Louis CK’s former manager, Dave Becky, has apologised for ignoring complaints from Dana Min Goodman and Julia Wolov, two women who featured in the original New York Times report, telling Variety: “I profoundly regret and am deeply sorry for not listening to and not understanding what happened to Dana and Julia.”
And Game of Thrones actor Lena Headey added her voice to the condemnation of the comedian, writing on Twitter, “Louis CK. The words you wrote are a s**tshow of narcissistic cock soup.”