The Sex Pariah’s 6-Step Guide to Rehabilitation

Jemal Countess/Getty Images for TIME Fourth Estate The Sex Pariah’s 6-Step Guidebook to Rehabilitation

Flushed into public observe by simply journalistic investigations and official probes, at least six dozen notables now stand accused of rape, sexual harassment, sexual abuse or sexual misconduct. Each day, it seems, another alleged offender joins their amount.

The accused hail from almost every major field in American lifestyle: Hollywood (Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Jeffrey Tambor); journalism (Leon Wieseltier, Tag Halperin, Hamilton Fish); music (R. Kelly, Russell Simmons, David Sweeny); Capitol Hill (John Conyers, Al Franken, Blake Farenthold); VC/tech (Shervin Pishevar, Steve Jurvetson, Robert Scoble); open public broadcasting (Michael Oreskes, Charlie Rose, John Hockenberry); professional broadcasting (Expenses O’Reilly, Matt Lauer, Roger Ailes); theater (Israel Horovitz); magic (David Blaine); foodstuff (John Besh); academia (John Casey); comedy (Louis C.K.); sports (Jameis Winston); comic literature (Eddie Berganza); opera (James Levine); and sports (Sepp Blatter). The adult film industry, as well, gained representation on this roll call in mid-November as actor Ron Jeremy attracted accusations of rape and sexual assault.

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Oh, and then there will be the longstanding charges of abuse fond of President Donald Trump, the Access Hollywood perpetrator who brought the once taboo subject matter out of your shadows.

So many accusations, consequently much shame. Most of the accused have either lost their careers or encounter suspension pending deeper inquiries. Shunned and ridiculed, they have got lost friends and sociable standing. Strangers who might once have got approached them for a selfie and an autograph now cross the road to avoid them.

Everybody agrees the guilty ought to be punished, so I’ll leave it again to wiser columnists to determine their proper sentences. But once they’ve completed their period can we, should we, allow them to return to public lifestyle and their professions? And by what avenue?

It’s not a specious question. In the end, murderers have been recognized to earn a second likelihood after serving their period, so why not really sex pariahs? Here follows Shafer’s Pariah Rehabilitation Playbook for tossing off the pariah yoke, no matter what the transgression:

Step 1 1: Confess your offense without qualification

If you’re guilty of sexual harassment, your rehabilitation will start with a confession and an apology. Don’t blame it on alcohol or some terrible patch that induced you to skid off the highway of lifestyle. Don’t blame it on the ‘60s and ‘70s, as Harvey Weinstein do. Don’t blame it on being in the closet, as Kevin Spacey do, pretending that he was the true victim. If you litigate the issue-as Matt Lauer do by saying that “A few of what is being said about me is certainly untrue or mischaracterized”-be prepared to delineate between your cases where you’re innocent and those where you’re guilty, with specifics and specifics. No vague half-denials.

You might be innocent of all the charges and totally undeserving of your pariahhood. If consequently, fight, but fight good. And hire the best lawyer available.

Step 2 2: Retreat from everyday life

After you confess, disappear from the general public eye for at least six months. This serves two purposes. Regardless of how sincere your confession and apology, you disgust typical company too much for anybody to want to consider your circumstance. They don’t want to observe you; they don’t want to hear you. They need a physical signal from you that you concur what you’ve completed should exclude you from polite enterprise. Banish yourself. Find a cabin in the mountains or desert. Move to a tiny town or a overseas country and lie low consequently persons don’t have to consider you (it’s minimal you can do), but also to help you consider what you did.

Step 3 3: Submit to a good credible sponsor

DIY rehabilitations happen now and again. But most fallen human beings need a way-finder. During your retreat, see when you can enlist a sponsor. NFL superstar Michael Vick was lucky to recruit ex – NFL trainer Tony Dungy, a guy of impeccable morality, to steer him back into our good graces after a dogfighting conviction and visit to prison. A credible sponsor provides fallen a method to signal the sincerity of his efforts at rehabilitation and restitution.

So far, none of the high-profile accused has taken this task. But it could work. In Hollywood, Jodie Foster helped treatment Mel Gibson’s pariahhood. Robert Downey Jr. relied on his wife, maker Susan Levin, to accomplish the same. Tag Halperin’s journalism spouse John Heilemann will be the obvious applicant for Halperin’s restoration. Brian Williams could intervene with Matt Lauer (keep in mind Lauer’s interview with Williams when he was shamed for his fabulist turns?). Tina Fey could work with Al Franken. I don’t understand how credible a sponsor I would be, but I’d be humbled to be area of the reintegration of my pal Michael Oreskes into professional lifestyle.

Step 4: Perform functions of penance

By now you’ve confessed, made yourself scarce, and found an ally. Now comes the Catholic part: penance. On the chance you don’t draw jail period for your wrongdoing, you should even now submit to some kind of voluntary self-punishment to show humility, an idea endorsed by numerous Christian denominations. Think regarding exposing you to ultimately a sensible sort of hardship-literal self-flagellation, penance authorities agree, is as well showy. Perform an work of pilgrimage like trekking the Pacific Crest Trail in wintertime. Quit your worldly things-your automobiles, planes, getaway homes and fine wardrobe. Devote yourself to the indegent or the homeless. Don’t merely join a charity table: Scrub floor surfaces and toilets. Clean their oozing sores. Volunteer at a rescue animal kennel. Use your creativeness. It is, after all, your penance.

Works of penance don’t wash away sin. To give credibility to the sinner’s plea for forgiveness they must convey a message that is legitimate, heartfelt and meaningful. Weinstein proved himself unworthy of forgiveness when he proposed in his letter of apology to give the NRA his “complete attention” and donate $5 million to an application for feminine directors at the University of Southern California. Fighting the NRA and helping female filmmakers will not start to ameliorate his alleged rapes and assaults. This wasn’t penance, this was bad public relations.

No one expects the shamed to devote their lives to a good department store of good works like Mother Teresa. Just a boutique should be enough, if it’s the right boutique.

Stage 5: Perform verbal functions of contrition

In the Catholic Church, prayers of contrition follow the repentance of sins after confession. To our modern ears, verbal functions of contrition often audio hollow. When Leon Wieseltier writes, “I am ashamed to know that I made some of [my accusers] come to feel demeaned and disrespected,” he adds enough range between his shame and his accusers’ feelings to justify our speculation that what he’s ashamed about is getting caught.

Expressing sorrow and remorse will not come naturally-even to wordsmiths just like Wieseltier-so let’s not mail to the guillotine everyone who may make a botch of it within their primary gesture. Do-overs are not only allowed, they’re motivated. Carry out it until you get it right. Verbal functions of contrition that hook up to the reflections shaped during penance usually audio the sincerest. And sincerity is certainly type in making apologies. (By no means mind the joke about having the capacity to fake sincerity.)

Depending on the work of transgression, transgressors must be prepared to express their regrets again and again. It’s a little like having to consider immunosuppressants for the rest you will ever have after accepting an organ transplant. I’m sure that Michael Vick is still apologizing anywhere for abusing dogs. Not everyone has the center to stay forever rueful for their bad choices. If you don’t, you probably won’t be rehabilitated.

Having said that, your apology do not need to be the topic sentence to every paragraph you ever speak once again. At some point-everybody’s mileage varies-you can let it go. So, feel absolve to involve your apologies in your speaking tours, television appearances and the literature and content you write. Only don’t let it become the new story you will ever have once you’ve been forgiven.

Oh, and be prepared to end up being judged. For the rest of your life.

Step 6: Restitution

Restitution is a good sticky organization. If you’ve obtained pariahhood by credible allegations of rape or assault, there’s no way to create things right brief of likely to jail. (If you’re reading, Harvey, you can stop here.) “I’m sorry” merely isn’t enough. “I’ll be better in the future” doesn’t slice it, either. Giving cash to an excellent cause can help level things, however the gesture must be proportionate to the size of your estate; that’s why Weinstein’s $5 million give was laughable.

Rich transgressors can afford to give away plenty of money and really should. Matt Lauer was making $28 million a calendar year before NBC fired him. Presumably, he could find the money for to donate millions to good causes to offset a tiny bit of the damage he has inflicted but still can pay for to live like a king. But keep in mind: There’s an excellent collection between making an work of restitution and attempting to buy your way to avoid it of a jam. Give generously or don’t bother.

Restitution through good works done right can become as big a story as the original transgression. Convicted Watergate conspirator Charles Colson threw himself into prison ministries for many years after leaving jail, defying cynics who imagined his new cause was screen dressing.

There is absolutely no one-size-fits-all prescription for reintegration into society. You can’t expect everyone to simply accept your apologies correct away-or ever. Someone will be there to say you should have eliminated off the grid for a calendar year instead of just six months, or you should have started a fresh career where your status was untainted rather than returning to your old profession where you got into issues, or that you have to donate a lot more money with their cause.

That’s the bad information. But the good news is certainly that the human convenience of forgiveness rivals the human capacity for transgression. For that reason, ditching pariahhood is not impossible. So long as you can allow that you might never surge to your pre-pariah position and don’t mind living lifestyle with a lowered head, you’ll be good.


Send apologies to My email alerts happen to be contrite, my Twitter feed is certainly rueful, but my Feed is certainly unrepentant as all hell.

Jack Shafer is Politico’s senior media writer.

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