At a recent event, I saw a sexual predator wallowing in the attention given them by adoring fans. Many people claimed this speaker was an influence upon their lives and upon their careers. And I cannot tell a single one of them about the predatory tactics of this speaker, because I do not know first hand.
I have seen first hand when male speakers have, post their speaking event, preyed upon women from their audience who were starstruck and willing to be recipients of that speaker’s attentions. A speaker I knew slept with a friend of mine one night at a conference, thinking she had a connection and was important. When she requested to visit his room the following night, he told her instead she should send her friend.
I have seen first hand a male speaker talk about the importance of family and spouse and loyalty, only to spend the evening prowling for a “lucky” woman to sleep with him that night.
Certainly, consenting adult sexual relationships – one or many nights – should be between those adults. And if people choose to cheat on their spouses, that’s their decision. And we all understand the stories of the desire of the groupie to sleep with a band member. Attraction between the sexes is human nature, however, it is apparent that the line where ‘no’ is respected, is crossed far too often.
It’s when the behavior becomes predatory, leveraging the power the platform offers to beguile women and take advantage of them. It’s when the dishonesty of the predator snows the victim into thinking they are important, only to be discarded upon conquest.
A predator was working his sleaze on a friend of mine at an event, and was progressively getting her drunker. In proximity to the predator, I got close, looked her in the eye, and said to her “Do not go anywhere with this man. Do not go to his room. Do not sleep with this man.” The next morning, she emailed me to apologize for not listening to her. She became a victim of his predation. She was taken advantage of.
The power equation
For those who feel they have some power in this situation, they will behave even worse.
Recently, a well-known speaker in my circle was outed by a family member. She had gone to lunch with him, because he was a “motivational speaker” and an inspiration to many. They talked about the speaking business, and she learned from his advice. When they went to leave, he groped her. When she stepped back, he leaned in and asked for a kiss. She refused, and he implored her to kiss him. She told him it was inappropriate and left. She reported it to his wife, and she ignored the information. I talked with someone who knew him and his wife, and it turns out, he behaves in this manner often. His wife, it seems, ignores it – this makes her an enabler. He has power, and he has support for his sexual attacks.
When I looked at his Facebook page, the blatant display of his “wealth” is clearly false. His visit to a Ferrari store to have his photo taken next to a Ferrari makes him look successful – in his own mind, I would venture – but it does not fool those who look closely. What is disturbing is his entreaties to his God and the postings with his wife as his love, his backbone, his partner. Anyone who sees this man in action may think he is an inspiring god-fearing loyal man with integrity. He is, plainly, a sexual predator and attacker. And so far, he has been able to get away with it, ignore the ramifications of his behavior, and continues to grope and attack women.
What to do
There are two things at play here. First, I cannot rightly report this man to anyone. Any claim I make is only second hand information. I would be subject to being sued for slander and libel, and even if proven right, that process is daunting to anyone and the predator, with the right legal team, could easily walk to continue their attacks.
Second, while there are numerous women who might have been attacked by him, there is no safe place for them to be able to report him and expose him. Coming forward about a sexual attacker is not an easy path when it seems that the predator is in a position of power and appears immune to being exposed.
And while this does happen with women sexual predators, the incidences are markedly low. Without doubt, if there was a safe place for victims, it should apply across the board to all genders and all attackers.
No safe place
I re-checked the original video from this victim and found it has now been removed. Was the poster threatened? Did she feel unsafe? What made her decide to remove it from public view? Clearly, there are ramifications for women to stand up and even make a claim as a victim of sexual assault. This applies to all victimization – from groping, to rape, to domestic abuse – there seems to be very little that any individual can do to report attacks and prevent future attacks.
My question is, what do we do? And by “we”, I mean victims, I mean allies, I mean advocates, I mean all of us.
My past experience has been that women speakers at events typically know who the predators are, and warn each other about their behavior. By knowing this information, women can be prepared to handle a situation before they become victims.
A need to know
But how do we let people know that the speaker who is your idol, the speaker who is extremely famous, the speaker who seems to be at the pinnacle of our business, is a predator?
And then, what do we do about it? Clearly we cannot prevent them from future attacks without some intervention or exposure that shames them. Until there is a culture of being able to report and expose these predators, it may be impossible to stop them.
The other side of the coin is not a balance, but something we may not want to lose. The positive impact on many speakers’ careers from some of these well known inspirational figures cannot be ignored. Several of these predators have lifted and supported other speakers and had a positive impact on the world. Should we bring them down because they cannot stop from groping? I’d like to say yes, but I believe some might feel different.
Let’s start a conversation
This is not an easy conversation. Would you want to know if someone you admired was a sexual predator? Would it change how you feel about them, or how you behave around them? Would you want to share that information with fellow members of your tribe? Would you want to prevent further victims?
I would love to hear all your thoughts.
Comment on this post, or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org