Predators should be called out immediately

The hashtag #metoo has been turning up on Facebook feeds in recent days. It’s a social media campaign by women to draw attention to the fact sexual abuse and harassment happens every day and everywhere.

By pointing out everyday tales of being hit on, harassed and subjected to the unwanted sexual attention of men, the #metoo campaign confirms what we already know: hideous behaviour of the Harvey Weinstein variety is a curse your sister, your mum, your aunt and your daughter have most likely endured. 

It should not be this way.

Of course, there is a whole spectrum of harassment women endure in the workplace, at social events and in the street. It can range from unwelcome comments about their appearance to unsolicited touching. It can be perpetrated by the male colleague whose eyes wander or who is quick to offer massages or place hands on shoulders or other parts of the anatomy.

As we’ve seen in recent days, when called out it can result in a spectacular fall from grace. In the space of weeks, Harvey Weinstein has descended from his lofty position as Hollywood royalty to pariah. What’s more mystifying than the sense of entitlement that makes a singularly unattractive man albeit one with immense power think it’s okay to put the hard word – and pink, spatulate hands – on women is the cone of silence that until now has kept the behaviour a poorly kept secret. 

Suddenly, everyone is coming out to publicly shame Weinstein. But if they knew about it before, why did they remain silent then? 

And why hasn’t the shame extended to others known to have preyed on women in similar fashion, including Donald Trump, who was recorded bragging about it? Weinstein’s career may be a smoking ruin; Trump still occupies the White House.

Each decade, we become more informed and, hopefully, more enlightened. We have started a conversation about marriage equality which, however difficult and at times shrill, at least has us thinking about attitudes and change. The revelations about sexual predation in Hollywood ought to make us look at ourselves, our behaviour and whether we need to change.

Judging by the number of women who have stepped forward in the social media environment to say they, too, have been preyed upon, we need to talk sexual harassment and call it out when it happens.