Victims Come In Many Shapes

Lessons still being learned

“Don’t throw stones if you live in a glass house,” my father always said. He taught me everything I know about winning an argument and always reminded me not to touch a subject that would leave me vulnerable.

California Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia might not have received the same lesson. Her positions as head of the Legislative Women’s Caucus and an active member of the #MeToo movement were disparaged after multiple sexual misconduct accusations arose against her in the past few months.

Garcia consistently used social media to ensure the public she would not work with politicians who had allegations against them, and condemned men who blamed alcohol for their predatory behavior. She has two pending accusations, and former legislative staffer and alleged victim Daniel Fierro claims she appeared inebriated during his assault.

Last year was nothing if not a rude awakening about the need for transparency in the workplace. The #MeToo movement gained momentum midway through the year with Hollywood horror stories involving big-name executives like Harvey Weinstein and entertainers such as Louis C.K.

The movement was grand in encouraging victims to come forth, break silence and openly accuse those who caused harm. It also, however, encouraged a select few to pursue an ideology that demonizes all men.

It’s important to recall men and boys are assault victims as well. One in every 10 rape victims are male, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network website. And while the most prominent example of male victims might currently stem from actor Kevin Spacey’s accusations, what about female aggressors?

Garcia appears to be the first female accused of misconduct in the public sphere, but the stigma surrounding male victimization might impede a more accurate number. “Because men in our society are expected to always be ready for sex and to be the aggressors in sexual relationships, it may be difficult for a man to tell people that he has been sexually assaulted, especially if the perpetrator was a woman,” explained the University of Michigan Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center website.

Moreover, the fiercely female #MeToo movement might rightfully be hesitant to highlight male victims’ experiences due to the masculine sex’s tendency to overshadow female commentary and concerns. Including males’ assault experiences, especially if the perpetrator was a woman, might break the momentous feminine solidarity created in the past year and draw attention to the already overwhelmingly encompassing male gender.

But transparency should flow both ways. There should be no discrimination between a male or female assailant, because both can cause an equal amount of harm.

There shouldn’t be a “wrong” place to speak up about sexual harassment, either. A man shouldn’t be afraid to use #MeToo if he feels it’s his most immediate and safe outlet, as long as his intention is to contribute and stand with the movement rather than overpower it.

Fierro, for instance, shared his experience “because he thought Garcia’s behavior was at odds with the #MeToo movement, which could harm the cause she was so closely associated with,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

In this tumultuous climate, we should recall that both victims and assailants come in many different forms, and we should not assign a gender to either one.

Adriana Garcia can be reached at [email protected]