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GUEST COLUMN: Fathers are the key to ending sexual harassment

By: Majida Rashid
November 18, 2017 Updated: November 20, 2017 at 2:49 pm
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"Go, go, go inside," said my father to me. I was in the outer room, where male guests who were not related to the family were entertained, as was customary in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where we were living at the time. 

Father's friend was holding a baton at both ends, in a way that I could swing from it. I was enjoying swinging from the baton as a 4-year-child would. Alas my fun ended when my father sent me inside the house.

I was, of course, disappointed in my father for curtailing my enjoyment. Much later, when I had my children, I realized that my father was protecting me by sending a message that it was not OK to enjoy such moments, even with a man who is familiar. I'm so grateful to my father because, due to that incident, not only was I forever on alert for the Harvey Weinsteins of the world, but I also learned that no men, no matter what the pretext, can touch me without my consent.

Unfortunately, my father sent other signals that were detrimental to me later. I was born in a polygamous household to the first wife who had fallen out of favor with her successful lawyer husband, my father. I thought my father remarried because my mother didn't please him. Alas, the impact of my father's treatment of my mother resulted in my accepting an abusive marriage as the norm.

For 30 years, I did every possible thing to please my ex-husband, who was a sex addict. Those addictions do not sprout in vacuum. I have witnessed families where sons had sexual addictions, while the sisters facilitated and enabled the men because their father's visits to sex workers were an open secret.

Fathers can impact their sons, and how they treat women, by their absence and silence, too.

A friend's husband, whose father would disappear for days, leaving him, his mother and siblings behind, doesn't even talk to his mother unless he needs something. He once put up such a facade of depression that everyone thought he would commit suicide. The facade disappeared after he dropped his mother off at the airport. His behavior, hobbies and attitude are similar to his father's. Now his attitude is also being reflected in his 3-year old son who, in front of the father, doesn't talk to close female relatives that the father doesn't talk to.

Fathers are the key to better treatment of women in the future - whether in Pakistan or the United States.

We don't realize how big of an impact a father's actions, words and thoughts have on a child, and how their attitudes toward women are ingrained in their children. In America or elsewhere, a society can never function in a healthy way until fathers teach their sons the harmful impact of sexual harassment. And abusive fathers, whether biological or otherwise, have to stop turning a blind eye to the fact that they are damaging their children for life. Children do not have filters to sort through things so they absorb everything like a sponge.

Kudos to the brave women who, despite the stigma attached to sexual harassment, spoke out about Weinstein. However, news is news: It's here today and gone tomorrow. But human behavior, at an individual level, remains.

Fathers have to be more vigilant in protecting their children from physical, sexual, emotional and psychological harm, so that the harassment and abuse cycle stops.

It's every father's duty now to open their eyes and see how their behavior is affecting their children. They must ask themselves: Do they want their children to grow up and be skirt chasers like Weinstein?

My father has passed on, but in his 90s he profusely apologized for marrying me off to a sexual addict. He was proud of me and encouraged me to complete my memoir, hence I am writing now without guilt or shame of exposing things.

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Colorado Springs resident Majida Rashid has lived and worked in nine countries, including the United States.

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