#MeToo men aren't doing enough to make amends, says rabbi

Famous men accused of sexual abuse shouldn’t be expecting forgiveness anytime soon, says Danya Ruttenberg — not until they’ve done the hard work of making amends.
Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg wrote a column for the Washington Post, arguing men like Louis C.K. need to do the hard work of repentance. (Danya Ruttenberg)

Famous men accused of sexual abuse shouldn't be expecting forgiveness anytime soon, says Danya Ruttenberg, the rabbi-in-residence at Avodah, a U.S. anti-poverty organization. They should keep their expectations low until they've done the hard work of making amends. 

In September, Ruttenberg wrote an opinion column for the Washington Post, arguing that men like comedian Louis C.K. and former NBC television host Matt Lauer have yet to earn forgiveness.

"None of these guys have actually done any of the work to really own the harmful things that they've done," Ruttenberg told Tapestry host Mary Hynes.
Danya Ruttenberg is the rabbi-in-residence at Avodah, a U.S. anti-poverty organization. (Danya Ruttenberg)

"Instead they're saying, 'I was quiet for four months. I'm back. You love me again.'"

C.K. has made several surprise appearances at comedy clubs since admitting to allegations of sexual misconduct in November 2017.

Meanwhile Lauer, who was fired due to sexual harassment accusations, told followers in August, "Don't worry, I'll be back on TV."

"In some ways our culture today really loves a second chance and to kind of minimize damage and minimize impact," Ruttenberg said.

"But in my tradition, we really believe that there needs to be a real thorough and painful and really not clean, not pretty, and certainly not quick reckoning of the damage done."

What's missing from these men is amends, Ruttenberg argued.

Amends, she said, can be as broad as therapy, or as direct as monetary reparations. The key is that the perpetrator ensures what he's done can never happen again, and that the victim is given the opportunity to heal.

Ruttenberg offered that instead of making surprise appearances at comedy clubs, Louis C.K., for example, could focus on benefiting the people he hurt.

As to what the public owes these men, in the Jewish context, is very little.

They're not owed fame, wealth, or forgiveness, especially if they haven't done the work of amends, said Ruttenberg.

That doesn't mean people should be cruel to those who have hurt others.

"They are human beings and so they are owed the same … consideration that we owe everybody," said Ruttenberg.

"I think there's a lot of really amazing, talented people out there, who do not perpetrate rape culture that we could be supporting instead."

Though men like C.K. and Lauer currently have a difficult relationship with the limelight, Ruttenberg said depriving them of it is important for the sake of the victims.

Drawing those boundaries allows victims to feel like society has their back, she said.  

She noted that the ongoing #MeToo movement is a flash in the pan, compared to a long history of pushing aside abused and marginalized people.

"I think it's going to be a long haul," said Ruttenberg.

"This is hundreds, if not thousands of years of accumulated ideas and ways of being that we're grappling with and it's not going to get fixed overnight."