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Editorial: Let's turn 'me too' into 'no more' sexual harassment

Every so often we find ourselves living through a watershed social moment. In recent years, we've seen tectonic societal shifts in the growing acceptance of medical marijuana—even, to a lesser extent, of recreational marijuana—and in tolerance of same-sex marriage. Now we seem to be entering a new era in the social condemnation of sexual harassment, thanks to some notorious cases involving prominent men who have been exposed as serial offenders. The most infamous is Harvey Weinstein, a movie producer, whom the New York Times and New Yorker magazine have reported used his wealth and influence to make unwanted advances against actresses. Weinstein, who has been ousted from the company he co-founded and from the prestigious Motion Picture Academy, has also been accused of rape. Another recent example is the political journalist Mark Halperin, whom multiple women have accused of sexual harassment years ago when he was with ABC News. Both men have been thoroughly shamed and their careers have been damaged.

It took years for the rumors against Weinstein to surface publicly, but once they did it was as if a dam sprung a leak. Accusations against other prominent men, in Hollywood, business and other walks of life, abruptly became public. Women have started speaking out more than ever before, including on social media platforms, where #metoo became a depressingly common shorthand for women openly acknowledging they have been victims of sexual harassment or abuse. For far too long, sexual harassment has gone on because it lurks in the shadows. But now, as never before, the behavior is coming into the bright light of day. More women are coming forward with their stories, "outing" the likes of Weinstein and Halperin. Now, as never before, men are on notice that they might be exposed for their inappropriate or criminal behavior—even if it happened years ago. In the court of public opinion, there is no statute of limitations.

Experience tells us that men who are flagrant abusers like Weinstein are often powerful figures who believe the rules don't apply to them. They possess a warped sense of entitlement. Experts add that these men excuse their behavior through tortured thinking, convincing themselves that women actually welcome their advances, even if they make it clear that they do not. They are somehow incapable of seeing the woman as a person who deserves respect. We're struck that if everyone took to heart and observed the Golden Rule, some form of which has been embraced by every major religion, it would go a long way toward solving this stubborn problem. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

If Harvey Weinstein and Mark Halperin had followed that simple moral principle in their dealings with women, they would not be what they are today: fallen figures. We've fortunately reached a tipping point, however, and more women are willing to stand up and name those who sexually harass or assault them.

Editorials represent the views of Forum management and the Editorial Board.