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The Many Faces of Abuse of Power

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Message Dr. Lenore Daniels

On most of those Friday nights, my mother and I would bar the front door of our apartment with a chair placed under the door knob. We worked in silence, afterward both of us standing back to access what we had done. I don't know what an onlooker would have thought if she were watching us.

Nonetheless, in this her second marriage to my father, my mother would watch from the other side of the door as my drunken father undid our handiwork. From where I stood in a corner away from the door, it seemed that the cracking of the door frame caused my mother's body to move. She's all of a hand reaching out to push the chair aside and unlock the padlock.

It's as if there's never been any other Friday night. And yet, I've seen my mother backing up, always backing up while my father moved forward, toward her, threatening to kill. "I'll kill you."

I'm always running already out the building, down the dark streets, past St.________ where I attend grammar school, to 61st and a lit payphone booth...

I couldn't understand why the police officers ended up shaking hands with my father, leaving us, my mother and me, to him.

All of 11 years old, and I already think I'm witness to a ritual.

Brooke Nevin's story has recently focused Americans' attention to questions we asks of women who come forth with charges of abuse of power, particularly sexual abuse: Why didn't you speak up sooner? Why don't you women just leave?

In Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predictors, Ronan Farrow chronicles his investigation into the practice of "catching" and "killing" stories, incriminating the powerful with charges of sexual abuse. Harvey Weinstein is a primary example of rampant sexual abuse treated as the norm. The story of how the former Hollywood mogul yielded power is as overwhelming as were his unwanted sexual advances toward aspiring actresses. So too, Farrow tells us, is the story of a network cover-up, involving former NBC's "Today" show, Matt Lauer.

In a conversation with Farrow, Nevin explains how her story was silenced by the powerful network.

Behind closed doors with Lauer, he demands sex. She drank too much, but recalls telling him no repeatedly. But he's Matt Lauer, empowered by Americans who trust him. Americans watch and listen to him. Few hear the whimpering of women charging abuse, sexual assault. Few would believe her story credible.

On that night, Nevin recalls, she lost everything.

The next morning, waking up on blood-soaked sheets, in blood-soaked clothes, Nevin has awakened to America's historical memory of spilled blood. Even if she was unaware of this American history, Nevin's memory of that night recalls a landscape of nights in which brutalized victims were scripted as lascivious and depicted as "Jezebels."

It's his narrative against her narrative--that historically subjugated narrative, subject to far more scrutiny than his would be.

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Activist, writer, American Modern Literature, Cultural Theory, PhD.

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