What do these men have in common?

Here are a few names I want you to think about for a few seconds. What do Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Roger Ailes, Jeffrey Epstein, Larry Nassar, Jerry Sandusky, Richard Strauss, Barry Bennett and numerous Catholic priests have in common? There are two things – they have been accused or convicted of sexual assault or misconduct and they have enablers who helped cover up their chronic abuse or infidelity. It is the enablers I want to focus on.

The enablers may have been more focused on protecting the reputation or brand of the entity, such as a university (Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State) or an organization (Catholic church, UK football, or the US Olympic Gymnastics). Yet, they did not step up to uncover what was going on or explained things away. Or, they just did not want to stick their neck out.

Legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno (lovingly called Joe Pa by fans), apparently knew of accusations of Jerry Sandusky’s predatory sexual tendencies with young boys, but enabled him to continue by not using his considerable gravitas to stop him. Other coaches and university officials were aware and did nothing or not enough.

Similar stories can be found in every sexual assault case involving a university or organization. Even Congressman Jim Jordan denies being told by several wrestlers on his team of Richard Strauss, the Ohio State medical doctor who fondled hundreds of male athletes. Yet, more than a few wrestlers, some who admired Jordan, said they told him. And, the Catholic church covering up for its pedophile priests is in its own league given the volume of priests.

Yet, the enablers who were involved with big name people, the bosses who sexually assaulted women as they had the power to make or break them, are also bothersome. These enablers did not just look the other way, which many also did, but some went out of their way to make the accusers’ stories vanish. The boss and his enablers would threaten people to acquiesce to a non-confidentiality agreement for a monetary settlement.

HBO is airing an excellent documentary on Ronan Farrow’s podcasts where he speaks with the reporters who helped him break the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault story. Weinstein could make or break a rising starlet’s career. Weinstein knew that and wielded that power like a weapon. He would threaten young women into sex or banish and bad mouth them to other studios. What finally broke him after twenty plus years was a few brave women who lost much, but went on the record along with a handful of others who shared their stories anonymously. And, one who kept a recording of him attempting a second assault.

Weinstein is a classic narcissist who bullied people for business or sexual acquiescence. One of the reporters who helped Farrow wrote Weinstein would “rape” business partners over testy financial concessions. He said the term rape was used by the other executives who felt cheated by him. Weinstein is not alone. This was common practice in the entertainment world. Yet, what is more troubling is it happens every day with men who abuse their power from retail store managers to military commanders to customer service center bosses.

And, politicians. Two former presidents are mentioned above. The latest former president in his pre-presidential career has been accused of sexual assault by about two dozen women along with a few consensual extra-marital affairs he did not want made public.He had a fixer who would enable him by making the accusation or story go away through confidential settlement. The other two-term president was a known womanizer who had more than a few extra-marital trysts when he was governor of Arkansas and president. While not accused of assault, his trysts would surface from time to time with the more famous one causing him to lie under oath.

The enablers must cease helping these folks. One of the biggest accused enablers, Ghislaine Maxwell, will be standing trial for “finding” girls (some under age) for her boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual parties for guests. Three people of note that knew Epstein include the two presidents above and Prince Andrew. So, this trial will get much notoriety

These predatory or overbearing men have taken advantage of their positions and power. Yet, the enablers have aided and abetted their efforts. These folks are equally concerning as they should know better.

Protecting institutions must start with accountability

With the parade of accusers testifying at the trial of Larry Nassar, the US Olympic gymnastic physician who sexually assaulted hundreds of young females, the finger is now being pointed back at Michigan State University, his employer. The university leadership allegedly did not take seriously previous accusations. It is alleged MSU brushed it under the rug to protect the institution.

The same could be said about Barry Bennell, an elite youth soccer (football) coach in the UK who sexually abused young boys for decades and yet no one did anything about it. Or, Penn State University where the University President and legendary football coach turned a blind eye toward Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of young boys and men. And, by far the worst example is the Catholic Church which long knew of sexual assault in their ranks and chose to hide it, move priests around or, in a horrible failure, try to train the sexual proclivity out of the predatory priest.

Now, the #metoo movement is providing support, encouragement and a window for women and men to come forward. And, they need that support. Harvey Weinstein is more than an individual predator, he represents a business, as do Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, Roger Ailes, Charlie Rose, etc. These men represent institutions that have revenue streams and reputations that are bigger than that of the individuals.

What happens to the victims who dare come forward are they run up against institutions that first and foremost think of protecting their reputations and/ or revenue streams. Weinstein had a mountain of people helping him threaten and pay off victims who accused him. The movie “Spotlight” on the investigative work of The Boston Globe (about sexual abuse by priests) revealed how there was a secret list of about ninety priests in the Boston area who were known by the church as to having sexually abused young boys as the church settled the cases.

The first step to addressing these issues must be for the institutions to be accountable. They must investigate these accusations with accountability, responsibility and due diligence. If they find fault, they need to admit it and take action. If they do not, the institution betrays the trust of people who support that institution. Leaving a predator in place is beyond poor stewardship, it is criminal.

The movie that angers me more than any other is called “Mea Maxima Culpa,” about the sexual abuse by a Catholic priest in a Milwaukee home for deaf boys in the 1960s. It is revealed later that some church leadership knew of the abuse and did not act. Sadly, there was a similar home for deaf boys near The Vatican that had the same kind of abuse. What would Jesus do? – he would not let a predator prey on more children.

Sexual assaulters prey on people. They use their power of control to abuse, silence, deny, defame and refute their victims. And, if needed, they pay off the victims asking for silence in return. Institutions must stand up more for their victims and less for the assaulters they employ. Believing the predator will stop after a settlement has been proven time and again to be a pipe dream.

To close, I am reminded of the true story of the Irish singer Sinead O’Connor, who effectively ended her soaring career when she tore up a picture of the Pope on live TV in protest over the silence of church leadership on sexual abuse by Irish priests and other failures. She was booed off every stage after that and unjustly ridiculed. Twenty years later after the Irish priest scandal broke, she was proven correct. Yet, how many more boys were sexually abused in those twenty years?

This story is why it is important. How can these institutions and companies allow these predators to abuse more children and adults after they know? Again, that is criminal, in my mind. Sadly, these kinds of sexual assaults occur too often in everyday organizations affecting everyday workers. We must shine spotlights on these activities and efforts to mask them from the public if not remedied.