As the list grows of prominent men who are caught demeaning women through repeated sexual misbehavior, could we be on the cusp of a new awareness of the blight this imposes on all of us, women and men alike?

It is said that 35 percent of American women experience sexual abuse in some form at some time in their lives. One out of every three. Think about it.

Such statistics make clear that a crisis is finally being recognized for what it is, a deep offense that leaves lifelong scars on offended and offenders alike. The offended for having been assaulted. The offenders for thinking they can get away with it.

Why does this matter?

Because the damage is hidden deep within what it means to be human. A women cannot be considered as a thing, an object, a sex toy with no living, breathing sense either of dignity or shame.

All of us suffer when these revelations are dismissed as other people’s problems. Nothing of the sort. The damage seeps down into all of us through a culture incapable of outrage, a mindset that settles for “men will be men” (or sometimes it can be women who are the offenders).

What can we hope for as outcomes with a lasting good effect?

One is that a respect for women continues to rise, imperfectly to be sure, but nonetheless rising. In recent weeks, women have spoken up, loud and clear. Men who abuse women will pay a steep price. Ask any of them currently doing so.

Despite some exceptions in high places, men in America are learning that being a real man isn’t being a lothario or a shrimp. It means decency built on sufficient self-respect that recognizes the same in women. It means appreciating the unique qualities of women without having to either dominate or wilt.

We menfolk need to watch carefully whom we choose as shapers of our behavior and be sure they are worthy of it. What womenfolk need in this regard comes best from women rather than men speaking for them.

Parenting — good parenting — is all the more urgent in a time like this, the kind of parenting that can spot bullying early on and intervene. Otherwise little bullies grow up to be adults who still think and act like 6-year-olds.

Life’s too short for that.

What can come from all of this?

At least this: A casualness about roving hands or talk laden with sexual innuendo is no longer taken casually. It is absolutely and altogether ruled out. In its place a healthy, wholehearted, respectful delight that God has made us male and female, each for the completing of the other, both for the good of the whole human family to which we all belong.

F. Dean Lueking is pastor emeritus of Grace Lutheran Church, River Forest.

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