Teach Me How To Ally: Sexual Harassment

Dear You:

I saw you or one of your friends last month, last week, or yesterday. Maybe even an hour ago. Either you or they mentioned to me that you’ve been on the receiving end of some much unwanted sexual advances from someone else that we know or work with.

No worries, I’m here to help. Not because I’m a good human or a good man, but because I’m not a bad one. Trust me, there’s a world of difference.

However, as I ask questions about the situation and how it came to be or who the person is, you are visibly uncomfortable. I relent, unsure of how to take action. I ask what I should do to help, but you don’t know. Fair. It’s a lot to take on and hard to process.

I suggest a direct confrontation 1-on-1 with the person. I have no problems with that, but you say no. You don’t want that. That’s fair.

While I may be the “hero” in that moment, the consequences will likely come to you before they find me. I get to walk out of that situation intact.

I recognize that very privileged position and I would be a fool to impose that on you so that I feel better about “protecting” you.

I suggest a means to directly state to a person in a position of more influence among our friends or among our coworkers that they need to address this, but I can’t describe the situation as you have asked me not to.

I am furious and frustrated; how dare someone do this to you, but also what do I even do? You’ve come to me because I’m safe. Because I’d understand. But you’ve also asked me to do nothing and that makes me complicit if it continues just because I’m aware of the situation. Do I just follow you around and fend people off with scowls?

How do I listen to your silence and draw from it how to be your ally? I don’t know. I know that I have to figure out how to do something other than understand because that’s what you’ve asked me to do: help.

I wish I had any idea on how. Any at all.

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