I went to the Flamboyant, a favourite nightclub for male expats in the capital of the country I worked in.For most of my stint I had promoted and honoured the moral code that it was wrong to hook up with club girls and engage a ‘professional girlfriend’ as was common.
Ami, Aisha, and Maimouna were not prostitutes, there was no quid pro quo.‘I didn’t have any direct power over these women; they came on to me!Coping and relational skills learned in childhood form the foundation from which future behaviors evolve.It has been hypothesized that women who survived maltreatment, in the form of physical or sexual abuse or neglect, will have sexual challenges in adult relationships. Rellini of the Department of Psychology at the University of Vermont conducted a study involving 192 women ranging in age from 18 to 25.There is a risk in placing aid workers among the traumatised, desperate and broken. Now we all need to be more open – although I fear the catastrophic impact of this saga on Oxfam risks driving these issues below ground and making them more difficult to expunge. I knew right from wrong and yet I managed to find enough moral wiggle room to engage in abuse.
Aid work transforms an ordinary guy like me into a hedge fund titan or the owner of a Ferrari – it places in my pocket a ticket to the high life and a passport out of hell. I had to read through months of my diary entries from more youthful days to locate my encounter with Ami. That women in Hollywood, politics and now the aid world speak of their experiences, and that men condemn those responsible – and accept responsibility for their own actions – is crucial. We are seeing the imbalances of power and the inequitable relationships that criss-cross the core culture of our sector.
Then I went out and danced with a dungareed, aloof-looking girl. Intelligent, distant, not very interesting in bed and attractive.
I like her.’Later I visited the Flamboyant again, leaving with a woman named Aisha. I would eventually try to justify my actions to my wife by saying there was never a direct transaction for money.
When it comes to aid work, men need to rethink what it means to possess and exercise power.
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That I helped develop our safeguarding policy and facilitated training sessions only complicates this picture.