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Here's How Many of us Have Implicitly Encouraged Sexual Harassment

Most people allowed gender and power to call the shots instead of skill and character
Disgraced Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein (R) and actress and activist Rose McGowan (L).
Disgraced Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein (R) and actress and activist Rose McGowan (L). | (Photos: Reuters)

Have you heard of HWS? The symptoms are real and the effects are demoralising. We all know in recent years little has been said of the blight of HWS on our society. Men were too money hungry and narcissistic and women were too afraid.

Men were egomaniacal and women had little job security. Men were sex-crazed idiots and women were pushed into situations they couldn't escape.

We knew there was an underlying issue.

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Then enter American Film Producer Harvey Weinstein. Harvey has been best known for producing the 1994 hit Pulp Fiction. By late October this year over 50 women had made allegations about Harvey, on grounds of sexual harassment and sexual assault, including rape. The bubble of secrecy had burst and suddenly the entire entertainment industry was in a state of moral panic.

So, I'm coining a new term. It's endemic of our current societal culture. It sums up hundreds of men who have had their names written on the chopping block of moral decency.

The Harvey Weinstein Syndrome (HWS) has been inherent within the nature of men for some time now, but we've only just started calling it out and realising its effects.

Recently in the Australian media Don Burke has been branded with the HWS logo. Consistent sexualised behaviour wasn't going to stay under the covers forever. Flowers don't grow in your garden when you use toxic chemicals, Don.

What is a syndrome?

A syndrome is a 'pattern of symptoms that characterise or indicate a particular social condition' ( In recent days we've recognised the pattern of symptoms.

Maybe you have recognised the symptoms of HWS too: Looking at women in an overtly sexual way, speech and actions that can only be described as verbal and sexual harassment, using your power and notoriety to manipulate situations for your own pleasure.

We've all seen and heard of HWS too much. You hear about it in the cricket locker room. You listen to stories in the local pub. You read jokes about it on facebook.

Occasionally you're aware of the effects of HWS. You hear of someone committing suicide. You hear of a woman who missed a career because she didn't play the game. You notice someone with low self-esteem, who can't look you in the eyes properly and you can't prove it, but you believe that HWS has been in play.

At times many of us have implicitly encouraged HWS. We've given a wry smile at an offensive joke, instead of saying that it was inappropriate. We've put up with the sly sexual comments, instead of standing our ground and calling it out. We've allowed gender and power to call the shots instead of skill and character. HWS has grabbed us and tried to suck us into its vortex of sin and seduction.

I have hope though. Some months ago, we lived in denial. We didn't even recognise HWS at work. We were seemingly oblivious to the damage it was causing.

Now, it's like God has lifted the veil of indecency and perversity, bringing to the fore that which used to hide in the shadows. A piercing, moral light has been shining in dark places, and now we're seeing the start of a revolution of accountability. Industries long held captive by promiscuity, lies and deception are now on notice.

Shouldn't be surprised

I guess we shouldn't be all that surprised. Jesus did offer us many thoughts about adultery, loving our enemies, living righteously and forgiveness, all found from the Sermon on the Mount (the book of Matthew, chapters 5 to 7). He said don't look at a woman lustfully. Don't hold grudges. Don't be judgemental. Live righteously. Love your enemies. Jesus finishes his powerful moral lesson with these words (Matthew chapter seven, verses twenty-four to twenty-seven):

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

The most powerful antidote for the Harvey Weinstein Syndrome is for decent people to speak out against indecent behaviour. It's then, and only then, that we can seek to bring healing and restoration from the demoralising side-effects of HWS.

Pete Brookshaw is the Senior Minister of The Salvation Army Craigieburn. He has a Bachelor of both Business and Theology and is passionate about the church being dynamic and effective in the world and creating communities of faith that are outward-focused, innovative, passionate about the lost and committed to societal change. He has been blogging since 2006 at about leadership and faith.

This article is courtesy of Press Service International and originally appeared on Christian Today Australia.

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