In an Opinion piece in The New York Times (Jan. 28), Rachel Denhollander – the first woman to come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct by gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar – writes, movingly, about her transition from whistleblower to courtroom witness.
“When I took on Larry Nassar,” Denhollander says, “I had no idea what I would lose. …I lost my church. I lost my closest friends as a result of advocating for survivors who had been victimized by similar institutional failures in my own community.
“I lost every shred of privacy.
“The first step toward changing the culture, that led to this atrocity,” Denhollander emphasizes, “is to hold enablers of abuse accountable.”
I wish Hillary Clinton had adopted that attitude.
Last Friday (Jan. 26), The New York Times reported that Burns Strider, a senior advisor for Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, had been accused of “repeatedly sexually harassing a young subordinate,” but “was kept on the campaign at Mrs. Clinton’s request…”
Clinton’s campaign manager, Patty Solis Doyle, at the time recommended that she fire the advisor, but instead, Clinton chose to dock him “several weeks of pay and ordered [him] to undergo counseling…”
And the young woman involved?
Well, she was moved to a new job.
Susan Chira, who writes on gender issues for The Times, points out that “Women in positions of leadership do not always act to protect other women. …
“So, putting women in power alone,” Chira adds, “is not a magic cure-all to end sexual harassment – though most scholars argue it would help. ‘Statistically, if you have more women in general in positions of power, that’s going to make a change over all,” said Abigail Saguy, a professor of sociology at UCLA, who has studied sexual harassment. ‘It doesn’t mean that every single woman is going to be attuned to this issue. Other factors shape perception, including your generation, who you’re married to, the peculiarities of your own background, how powerful you are, how long it’s been since you’ve been in a more subordinate position.’ ”
While Clinton has recently come out in support of both #MeToo and Time’s Up campaigns for women who have faced sexual harassment and/or abuse, this is a prime example of “do as I say, not as I do.”
“Ms. Solis Doyle,” The Times states, “and other senior campaign officials discussed the situation involving Mr. Strider and Mrs. Clinton’s response at the time. Some of them were troubled that he was allowed to remain on the campaign. …
“The complaint was taken to Ms. Doyle… who approached Mrs. Clinton and urged that Mr. Strider, who was married at the time, be fired, according to the officials familiar with what took place. Mrs. Clinton said she did not want to, and instead he remained on her staff.”
For Rachel Denhollander, the work is just beginning. “…we need to encourage and support those brave enough to speak out. … Far too often, our commitment to our political party, our religious group, our sport, our college or a prominent member of our community causes us to choose to disbelieve or to turn away from the victim. … Fear of jeopardizing some overarching political, religious, financial or other ideology — or even just losing friends or status — leads to willful ignorance of what is right in front of our own eyes, in the shape and form of innocent and vulnerable children.
“Ask yourself: How much is a child worth?
“Every decent human being knows the answer to that question. Now it is time to act like it.”
And if that doesn’t resonate in your gut, you’re not breathin’!