What has spurred on the epidemic of harassment indictments and why now? Obviously sexual harassment has been a chronic and intractable problem in the workplace for many years, but either people turned a blind eye to it and/or fear of consequences prevented others from confronting the issues. Certainly the problems are more common with people in positions of power and authority. They sometimes believe that the rules are different for them or their word has greater credibility than others. They may abuse their power and have poor boundaries. They don’t think about the consequences of their actions and probably have gotten away with bad behaviors in the past. Their position, wealth, status, and power contribute to a sense of entitlement, self-importance and belief that they deserve special treatment.
Many individuals who violate others’ boundaries either don’t care about the impact on others, assume they can get away with it, or are unaware of verbal/nonverbal cues. In fact,some have never faced consequences to their actions and are used to others bailing them out and defending them. In some cases, they live in their own grandiose world and assume others are here to serve them. They can justify and rationalize their actions by reminding themselves/others of “who they are,” and what they can do with their money and power. This may include politicians, celebrities, professional athletes, CEOs, or anyone who can use their position to manipulate or abuse. Of course, there are also many highly successful individuals who have honor, integrity, humility, and compassion for people. What makes the harassers different? Why do some use their status in life to abuse while others use it for good?
In some cases personality disorders, and in most cases, personality characteristics contribute to their actions and decision-making. Often they lack emotional maturity, empathy, and awareness. They alienate themselves from others, lack accountability, and have lost their moral compass. The path they’ve chosen often is one of self-indulgence. Sometimes they lead two different lives and bounce from the “good” to the “bad.” Often, their groupies will reinforce their immoral behaviors only so they can stay connected to the gravy train.
While we have seen both good and bad changes in our world lately, our efforts to treat each other with respect and not abuse the boundaries of others has come to the forefront which is very positive. The fact that people feel more comfortable to talk openly about abuse and harassment is encouraging. We have less shame, guilt, and embarrassment which enables us to confront conflicts directly. Similarly, people acknowledge and address mental illness more readily which has reduced the stigma. Our mental health matters and impacts both our physical and relational well-being. When we face our problems directly, we increase the chances of resolution and closure which creates a healthier life.