Sexual Predators Know the Difference between Right and Wrong — They Abuse Because Society Has Tolerated It for So Long

By Gerald Elias
Salt Lake Tribune
December 10, 2017

Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune The Salt Lake Tribune's Utahn of the Year--Madi Barney, pictured October 26, 2016, on the campus of Brigham Young University, the day the school changed its policy on sexual assault investigations. Through Barney's willingness to go public about Brigham Young University's handling of her rape case, Barney changed the discussion of campus sexual assaults across the state. Barney launched a petition requesting Honor Code amnesty for BYU students who report sex crimes that resulted in a policy change not to punish sexual assault victims for Honor Code violations in connection with their reports.

When drunken frat boys and campus sports heroes rape female students, we wring our hands but chalk it up to bad upbringing or aberrant behavior or extra testosterone or the reason-numbing effects of binge drinking. We decry it but can, to some degree, understand it.

But when such crimes are committed or tolerated by revered university profes­sors and administrators, how do we explain that away? Misunderstandings? If a professor or administrator can’t discern the difference between right and wrong, who can? Is it that difficult?

We are now engaged in a raging national debate regarding sexual misconduct that goes far beyond the college campus. High-profile men in the entertainment industry, in the media, in government, have been outed for sexual misconduct ranging from an unwanted kiss to pathological pedophilia. Even this is but the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface, sexual misconduct in the workplace — in offices, in hotels, in factories, in athletics, in the armed forces — has yet to be fully exposed. And it goes even beyond the workplace. Women do not feel safe from harassment or being groped simply walking down the street, sitting in a bus or going to a park.

When students and former students have come to me with stories of being victimized by members of my profession, the most important thing I can do is help them regain their ability — which has been so violently compromised — to trust someone, anyone. I try to provide that trust and support. In a society that has no difficulty talking about violence but is unable to openly discuss sex, especially sexual predation, it is no wonder that women are only now coming forward and with such difficulty and with such courage.

We cringe in disgust when Catholic priests are exposed for abusing children. We are outraged when male-dominated cultures of so-called Third World countries relegate women to second-class status. We recoil in horror when marauding mercenaries in Africa rape women as their reward and as a tool to terrorize the populace into submission. Why is it, then, in our supposedly advanced democracy, we’ve continued to tolerate sexual violence throughout our society?

To claim we haven’t tolerated it is simply denying reality. We have begun to see change, but the abuse has persisted, adminis­trations have continued to place the prestige of their universities ahead of the well-being of their own students, and the justice system has bent over backwards to protect the rights of the accused to the point of victimizing the victims.

Can it be we have been in a state of denial that “the greatest country in the world” may be no better than the lowest of the low? Hopefully, the tide of recent events will create the sea change we must have in our cultural attitudes towards sexual misconduct.








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