Compliance – a movie that will disturb you

The other day, my wife and I were reading summaries of movies as we selected one to watch. We passed on a thriller where one critic said it was the most disturbing movie he ever watched. Ironically, we selected a Sundance award winning movie that was powerful, but may have been the most disturbing movie we ever watched. It is called “Compliance.”

NOTE: A small spoiler alert is needed, but I only touched on it a little more than the summary does for the movie.

The movie is based on a true story that happened in a Kentucky fast food restaurant in 2004. Sadly, it has happened in quite a few other places. In essence, a young female cashier was picked out to be accused on the phone by a man pretending to be a police officer. I am not giving too much away, as you learn shortly therein what you already have figured out.

The man uses the name of a regional manager who he says is on the other line to enlist the help of the female store manager. He says a female customer has accused the cashier of stealing from her purse and they have surveillance footage. Since the police is too busy, he enlists the manager to do a strip search to save the accused the trouble of coming down and being booked. The ruse gets much uglier for this gullible young woman and her naive boss. I will spare the details, but their compliance with the requests of this beyond-creepy man is very disturbing.

The red flags are many throughout the call, but they are missed by the accused, the manager, and the manager’s fiancé who she enlists to help as the store is busy. If you watch this movie, you will be talking at the TV pleading with someone to think about what is happening. And, sadly it is based on a true story which happened over seventy times elsewhere.

The movie is meant to be disturbing. The director is Craig Zobel and it stars Dreama Walker as the young woman, Ann Dowd as the store manager, Pat Healy as the pretend cop, Bill Camp as Dowd’s boyfriend, Ashlie Atkinson and Philip Ettinger as co-workers and Stephen Payne as the maintenance worker who plays a pivotal role. The lessons in the movie are many, which is its intent, so if you do watch it, be forewarned that you will be perturbed.

Wednesday wanderings and walkabouts

With the no specific topic in mind, let’s put on our hiking shoes on this cool fall day and wander outside. Our Australian friends have a more earnest term of “walkabout,” so let’s walkabout and ponder as we stroll through a forest or path hopefully with a friend, given the stories below. If your significant other cares to join you, even better. Holding hands is optional but recommended.

In no particular order, here are a few items to ponder.

One of the things I have discovered is politicians and their staff members really like it when you call them and thank them for positive or courageous actions. Representative Nancy Mace, a South Carolina Republican, is getting flak from a member of her tribe for calling said person out for bigoted and mean-spirited remarks toward another congressional representative. I called and complimented Mace on doing the right thing and her political courage. We need more of that in Congress and in her party and less of the mean-spirited name calling and bullying.

I read yesterday the North Carolina School of the Arts, a high school for talented young artists, has now increased the number of plaintiffs to 41 accusing the school of allowing sexual misconduct occur. This school has failed to learn the lesson that groups like the Catholic Church, Boy Scouts of America, Penn State University, Michigan State University, US Women’s Gymnastics, Ohio State University, the US Military, et al. have failed to learn. The victims, not the institutional brand, matter the most. And, by focusing on the victims and bringing the alleged predators to justice, the institutional brand will actually be helped not harmed. Doing the right thing matters.

Unfortunately, I am aware of a couple of folks I know who have been victims of sexual assault. It makes you angry that this can happen. My advice to any person on a college campus or in a large organization, if you are sexually assaulted, do not go to the campus or security officials of the organization Call the police. You will be better served if you go to an entity that is not involved with the institution who will try to protects its brand first and foremost. As for college students, I would suggest young women not let anyone handle their drink, drink judicially and go to parties with a friend. Be in control of your destiny. When testosterone, alcohol and groups are mixed together, a woman’s best interest may not be top of mind.

Putting these stories together, I admire courageous and egalitarian leaders, especially women who exhibit these traits in the face of more adversity than a man faces. I also believe women must be extra vigilant in a world that continues to prey upon them. There are too many men like Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes et al out there who have used their positions of power to force themselves on women, whether it is a major retail store manager or a plant manager in a small town. These local managers who prey on women workers are far more prevalent as they control the hiring and scheduling.

It is hard, but it can be done. And, it may affect your income, which makes it harder. Women should not let any man or woman in power take advantage of them or others. I saw two stories this weekend on CBS Sunday Morning News that are telling. The actress Rita Moreno says she was raped by her agent when she was a teenager. Back in the early 1950s, she said she had no voice as a young Latina American and no one would do anything about it, so she did not even try. The other story is of the rock-n-roll singer Pat Benatar who said radio people in the early 1980s said if she slept with them her record would get played. She told them to go screw themselves.

We cannot expect all women to be as feisty as Pat Benatar and many still feel constrained like Rita Moreno did as a Latina American, but we men and women should be advocates for all women who are being pressured. And, we should applaud courage when we see it, whether it is political or personal courage.

Oh, Andrew, tell me why?

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York is back in this news for his alleged sexual misconduct. It seems the New York Attorney General thinks there is something amiss. Here is Quentinius’ post under his blog “We the commoners” on the subject. Below is a comment I made on the post, which I felt needed repeating with a few modifications.

Why do powerful men think they can get away with repeated sexual assault and misconduct with impunity? My wife and I watched the powerful series by Ronan Farrow called “Catch and Kill” about how he and others broke the Harvey Weinstein story. What is equally troublesome about the decades of sexual assault to control people by Weinstein is the enablers (including women), who helped him cover it up.

Weinstein, Cuomo (allegedly), Cosby, Trump, Clinton, Gingrich, Nassar, Spitzer, Weiner, Rose, O’Reilly, Ailes, etc. all took advantage of their powerful positions to use women, often against the victims’ will or with begrudging consent. They feel they could get away with it because they did for so long. And, it occurs every day in towns and cities with stores, warehouses, plants and offices with male managers of large groups of people.

To me, when the incumbent defames the position he holds (and it usually is a he), the governing body must take action per its rules. It matters not what political party someone belongs to. It matters not what favorable perception has been carefully cultivated by the abuser. If the entity does not follow its own rules of governance, much less the law, it says the behavior is OK. Yet, it is not.

The Heat is Back on Governor Andrew Cuomo – WeTheCommoners Blog

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.