By Aaron Samulcek, PPGP and PPGPV Interim President and CEO
I haven’t been shocked by the amount of people posting “Me too” on their social media profiles because I, like most people, know that sexual harassment and even sexual assault are prevalent parts of everyday life for many people, primarily women and trans people. But this doesn’t diminish my outrage at the abusers and enablers in society that continue to perpetuate this reality.
I have worked in reproductive health care for the past decade, and as interim CEO of a four-state Planned Parenthood affiliate, I’m often asked why I’m so interested in “women’s issues” and I have had to push back that terminology my whole career. I don’t believe that access to expert, compassionate sexual and reproductive health care is only a “women’s issue”. It is everyone’s issue. And it couldn’t be clearer to me that sexual harassment and sexual assault is definitely not just a women’s issue; it is a men’s issue. This is our problem. Men, who make up the vast majority of sexual harassment and assault perpetrators, are responsible for finding the solution to this problem and holding each other accountable for ending the tacit acceptance of this violence against women.
I’m a father, but I’m not about to tell you I care about this issue because of my young daughter. This is about fighting a sick and perverse culture to preserve humanity. I need to instill the values in my young son to respect others as equals. The responsibility I feel is heavy and humbling. More fathers, brothers, and friends need to talk to the young men in their lives and set examples that reflect respectful behavior and calling out the bad, as it happens. I commit to talking to my son and every young man in my life, now and always, about consent, respect, and accountability.
Until we see an end to harassment and assault, I’m proud that Planned Parenthood Great Plains’ health centers are safe places for people to go for help. PPGP staff is trained to screen every single patient that comes through its doors for signs of sexual assault, and staff know how to help intervene and save lives. PPGP’s expert staff address health care needs while treating patients as human beings -- with dignity, compassion, and respect.
This problem didn’t begin with Donald Trump or Harvey Weinstein. Sadly, it has been going on for some time. Legislators, professional athletes, Hollywood executives, and business elites have been some of the most egregious offenders. When people in these high levels of authority commit acts of violence, it condones this behavior for a generation of men.
I hope that if you’re a man reading this that you will make a commitment today -- not to merely hit ‘like’ on every “Me too” status, but something deeper. Make a commitment to talk to other men, especially boys. Make a commitment to believe victims first and to call out bad behavior, no matter how uncomfortable it feels. Make a commitment to tear down the systems that have chosen perpetrators over victims for too long.
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