The current spate of delayed high-profile sex crime allegations has to be one of the oddest phenomena in modern American history. Why in 2017 are these accusations, many of which seem credible, suddenly coming forth?
Sexual harassment has been considered taboo in the workplace for decades. Pedophilia has not had mainstream proponents for a long time and in recent memory seems to rank with other capital crimes in the minds of most Americans. And it isn’t as though we have suddenly found rape distasteful.
Yet these three crimes appear to have been committed on a large scale at the highest levels of American culture, among our political class and the entertainment elites whom we allow to form a lot of our popular attitudes, for years. For many, many years.
The duration of this unreported criminality is what really boggles the mind. Out here in the non-elite world, there seems to be quite a social prohibition against sexual misconduct.
Granted, there is a gray area with sex crime, and offenders are often not prosecuted or, if brought to justice, not convicted. Historically, people tend to get away with it at a higher rate than many crimes because of the nuances related to the offense. Sexual contact can be a normal human behavior in some instances, but not in others, which makes it different from robbery or assault or murder. Surprisingly often, prosecutors will not even bring charges. But all that is a discussion for another day.
What’s not a gray area in 2017 is that we now know literally hundreds of people have considered themselves victims of criminal sexual behavior and have desired to bring an accusation to the attention of apparently proper authorities, but were not listened to, or were threatened to keep quiet, or were punished into keeping quiet.
Why all of the alleged incidents could have been buried is not itself a huge mystery. People with money or influence accused of a crime probably have various means available to shut up their accusers. At the top echelons of Hollywood or Washington DC, where much of this criminality is supposed to have taken place, such power to silence victims would not be surprising.
But the weird thing is: some big change has taken place in America in 2017 that has opened a floodgate of victims suddenly overcoming the fears and powers-that-be that previously had them silenced.
Why do they now feel able to speak out? Certainly, the powers-that-be were all still in power when this series of bombshells began to explode a few months back. If people had money or influence in 2016 and before, they still had it this year, one would assume. Was there some larger controlling authority, some sinister force, in their minds at least, that no longer frightens them into silence?
These seem to be questions worth considering, as we reflect on a year that unfolded sort of chaotically but may be looked back upon as transformative when the history is written years from now.