Herman Cain has some tsouris. At least, that’s what he wants us to think. He’s been horribly inconvenienced by all of these allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior. Bullies, rapists, abusers, and their like are often narcissists. It’s not about the harm to the victim, it’s about the harm to them; the harm caused by getting caught. People who consistently behave the way Herman Cain has been accused of are dangerous, the more so for their inability to recognize their own bad behavior.
The allegations against Cain were settled in the time-honored way; the victim was payed off to remain silent, the perpetrator left in his position of power. Some might say, “what’s the harm? Nothing really happened, and they got money!”
But silence itself is violence.
The victims of Cain’s alleged behavior are not unscathed; money doesn’t salve all wounds. You can bet the women forced into silence took the deal not for the money but because it’s the best they could do to protect themselves from a powerful, abusive man. As we’ve seen in the Catholic Church child-rape scandal, silence encourages abusive behavior: it’s a tacit approval.
You might wonder how an upstanding citizen like Joe Paterno could get twisted up in a child rape scandal. He’s not accused of being the abuser, but Jerry Sandusky, the alleged rapist, was one of his closest advisers, and even after others knew of his behavior, he continued to troll for victims through his charitable organization (allegedly).
This is how silence kills. When we keep quiet for the sake of the perpetrator instead of shouting in defense of the victim, we are participants in societal violence, violence that often twists people’s lives into unrecognizable horrors.
We shouldn’t weep for Paterno; he failed, and his failure was devastating. We shouldn’t weep for Cain, even if it turns out he is falsely accused. Rather than shout implausible denials and hurl invectives at women brave enough to speak out, he should take a stand against the sort of violence that he is accused of. By denying their experiences and attacking them, he is denying the experiences of all victims and survivors of abuse. He is proclaiming silence a virtue rather than a vice that perpetuates victimization.