The Real Reason So Many Powerful Men Abuse Women (And How We Can STOP It)

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why powerful men abuse women

Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein ... they all have something in common.

When we’re appalled, but no longer surprised when a powerful man like mogul Harvey Weinstein abuses women — something louder rises in us all.

I’m having déjà vu of the pain, shock, and sadness I felt when I first read the victim-after-victim stories surrounding entertainment icon Bill Cosby.

I grew up listening to records of Bill Cosby telling funny childhood stories that had me in stitches of laughter. I didn’t want to believe the nearly 60 women’s voices all describing an eerily similar scenario over a 50-year period, but that specific pattern of behavior among so many strangers cannot lie.

My heart knows the truth despite the recent mistrial.

What is going on in our society when so many of these cases of sexual misconduct, harassment, assault, and rape continue to happen?

I felt the same shock when the news reported how now-President Donald Trump (another mogul) was accused multiple times of sexual harassment and bragged about groping and trying to have sex with women in a recorded 2005 conversation. His openly abusive verbal attacks now as president of the U.S. is the sad reality of a power culture that uses control, influence, and intimidation to get its way.

How is this OK? It’s not even OK in kindergarten.

Now, with movie mogul Harvey Weinstein abusing his position and allegedly harming dozens of women, we shudder. Not because we haven’t heard this before, but because it is a powerful reminder that blatant sexual harassment by people we respected for their talents has been allowed to happen behind closed doors for far too long.

How many more women were invited unexpectedly to Harvey’s hotel room for a "massage" that we haven’t heard about yet?

RELATED: The 5 Most Disturbing Details About Harvey Weinstein's Sexual Harassment Allegations And His "Code Of Silence"

I’m still trying to digest how we got to this reality and what we can do going forward. Have you wondered what’s underneath this type of behavior?

You’re familiar with it. It exists regardless of culture, status, gender or education.

Maybe you call it something else.

I call it entitlement. It’s particularly strong when someone has grown in influence, and now has the power to control others.

It says: “I believe you deserve this nasty way I can treat you because of who I am to you, and what I want.”

Everywhere you look, you can find it.

It’s the parent yelling abusively at their child who doesn’t follow their rules, or who’s not playing a sport as expected or an instrument well enough.

Are you entitled to treat your child this way as their parent? And then wonder why your child talks back, keeps getting into trouble and doesn’t respect you later?

It’s the teen attacking their parent with rude remarks, sarcasm, and a bad attitude. I see parents shrug it off. Isn't that just how teenagers behave?

It’s the impatient or demanding remarks by a partner who’s had a rough day. Your bad day means I have to suffer?

It’s what we allow, settle for, and accept in how we treat others, and how they treat us when deep down we know: it’s not OK because it’s the opposite of kind, compassionate, loving behavior.

At the extreme, it’s a sexual assault. It may be a mass shooting.

Entitlement has all kinds of levels of what you think you deserve where someone else becomes your victim.

With great power comes great responsibility, and when those in positions of power take their influence to be a force of destructive behavior where they deny, blame, and fail to take responsibility, entitlement has run rampant.

We need to not only call out what’s unacceptable behavior. But we also need to list the accomplices who knowingly helped silence the victims.

We can’t change other people, but when we put on our mask and quietly look the other way, we all suffer.

There’s a time and place to walk away, and we each must discern that for our own safety in a given situation.

But I’ve noticed that it takes practice to follow my own inner voice. I wasn’t willing to say what I needed to say until I had a strong enough conviction within me about what I would no longer tolerate.

It’s not easy.

There is an aftermath we face when we stand up for ourselves, but it’s also the only way I’ve been able to see someone else clearly.

If it means I lose something in the process — I’m ready to let it go.

Actress Heather Graham shared recently in a piece she wrote for Variety, “It wasn’t until Ashley Judd heroically shared her story a few days ago that I felt ashamed. If I had spoken up a decade ago, would I have saved countless women from the same experience I had or worse?”

There’s no shame in not speaking up — we cannot do it alone.

We must be willing to trust ourselves enough to share our own private experiences with those we can trust to come together more powerfully. When we do, we begin forming a new collective consciousness.

We lead from our hearts and give others permission to do the same.

When we don’t say anything, a deadly problem emerges for all of us.

Entitlement gives people permission to judge another person with, “I’m owed this! You deserve whatever crap I’m dishing out.”

But the landscape around the topic of sexual abuse and assault is changing.

We’re familiar, but becoming more intolerant with the double standard of men being studs, and women being sluts in a space of sexual connection. What’s consensual can still be a war of, “he said she said,” that can lead women to stay silent while men claim their sexual advances were wanted.

Historically, women simply haven’t had the strength in power to stand up together — until now. It’s taken the voices of those 59 women speaking up against Bill Cosby to plant the seeds of a collective consciousness that’s appalled together.

The fame, and positions of people who were harmed, like Ashley Judd and Gwyneth Paltrow, joined together with advocates like Hilary Clinton and many other powerful voices standing strong can together condemn the actions of what none of us are willing to tolerate.

It shifts something in all of us.

We become unwilling to stay silent when a powerful man in an industry abuses his power to control behind closed doors. He is not entitled to commit sexual misconduct or alleged rape and get away with it.

Entertainment reporter Anne Thompson, who dealt personally with Harvey for many years, bottom-lines the issue. “Like many powerful people, for Harvey it was an issue of control. Weinstein preferred relationships in which he knew he had leverage ... treating women abusively is about power and control, not sex.”

Who can forget the powerful anonymous voice of the sexual assault by a Stanford student, in the beautiful letter she wrote?

She not only gave us the most horrifying account of an experience way too many women go through at the hands of a sexual predator — we also got to experience the true power of someone who’s been wronged speak her truth without blaming, attacking, or judging another person.

She tells him, in essence, You are not entitled to wiggle your way out of your actions, blame others, or make up lies where you fail to take responsibility. 

She doesn’t condemn him, but his destructive actions. She doesn’t want him to rot in jail.

She wants him to understand what he’s done — not just for her sake — for his, and the greater community.

Has Bill Cosby learned anything from these women he’s accused of abusing? Does Donald Trump even see his own behavior? What about Harvey Weinstein? Is there any sense of responsibility or remorse for their actions?

This is the scary part with those in power. Can they see themselves?

An estimated 1 in 5 women will be raped in their lifetime. This is atrocious.

Our work is to recognize entitlement in ourselves and stand up bravely against anyone throwing around entitlement.

Our deepest nature has a hunger and thirst for goodness — the kind that unifies us. It’s an internal craving for divine perfection asking us to rise. When entitlement becomes self-righteousness with blatant disregard for others, we are being called to come together to say enough is enough.

It requires we seek out and create that safe space to share what is no longer acceptable.

Your intuition will tell you the truth — that you are not alone.

Carolyn Hidaldo is a spiritual life coach with a vision of living judgment-free. You can visit Carolyn at her blog or contact her through her Facebook.