No Longer Silent

The list grows longer every week.

This week’s announcement has celebrity chef Mario Batali stepping down from his businesses after four women came forward with sexual misconduct allegations.

Last week saw the resignations of U.S. representative, John Conyers and freshman Senator Al Franken after allegations from multiple women.

Fittingly, TIME magazine has chosen 61 individuals – 57 women and 4 men – as their annual Person of the Year. Entitled, The Silence Breakers, TIME offered a sketch of some of these courageous individuals running alongside their cover story.

With the dominoes of high-profile men falling nearly every week since the first disclosures of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein just two months ago, accusers are being heard and taken more seriously than perhaps at any time in the past 40 years.

TIME’s editor-in-chief, Edward Felsenthal writes, “It became a hashtag, a movement, a reckoning. But it began, as great social change nearly always does, with individual acts of courage” …from actors, to a strawberry picker, a young engineer, a lobbyist as well as a pop-music megastar, all are standing up to say that they will “no longer tolerate the perpetrators or enablers” of sexual transgression.

After Oregon State Senator Sara Gelser “accused her fellow legislator Jeff Kruse of sexual harassment,” TIME writes, “the statehouse launched an investigation and stripped him of his committee assignments.”

“We can’t pick and choose,” Gelser says, “based on whose political beliefs we believe in. And that means we have to be willing to speak out when it’s a member of our own party.”

Pop megastar Taylor Swift was even more forceful in her account of KYGO radio DJ David Mueller’s groping. Mueller was fired after Swift reported the incident to the radio station prompting Mueller to sue, claiming the allegations were false. Swift countered for $1 and won.

“When I testified,” Swift explains to TIME, “I had already and to watch this man’s attorney bully, badger and harass my team, including my mother… I was angry. In that moment, I decided to forgo any courtroom formalities and just answer the questions the way it happened. This man hadn’t considered any formalities when he assaulted me… Why should I be polite?”

“Discussions of sexual harassment in polite company,” TIME points out, “tend to rely on euphemisms: harassment becomes ‘inappropriate behavior,’ assault becomes ‘misconduct,’ rape becomes ‘abuse.’ ”

Longtime PBS interviewer and CBS host Charlie Rose mirrored one those softer words when he released his apology statement:

“… I deeply apologize for my inappropriate behavior. I am greatly embarrassed. I have behaved insensitively at times, and I accept responsibility for that, though I do not believe that all of these allegations are accurate.”

“There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions,” NBC’s Matt Lauer wrote. “To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry. Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed.”

While both Rose and Lauer are sorry, embarrassed and ashamed, in the same breath, they both cast doubt on some of their accusers.

NBC Anchor Megan Kelly, who came forward to describe how she complained to executives at Fox News about Bill O’Reilly’s mistreatment of women, says that politics became personal the moment an Access Hollywood video surfaced of Donald Trump bragging about assaulting women.

“I always thought,” Kelly tells TIME, “maybe things could change for my daughter. I never thought things could change for me. Never. I believed the system was stacked against women, and the smart ones would understand how to navigate it… I’m starting to see it so differently. What if we did complain?”

Former Fox anchor, Gretchen Carlson, is making a difference.

“Sexual harassment is not partisan because women from all walks of life and politics are targeted,” Carlson said. “Let’s get on the right side of history with both parties. Because when somebody decides to sexually harass you, they don’t ask you if you are a Republican or a Democrat or an independent, like I am, first. They just do it.”

Carlson has been working with lawmakers in Washington to pass legislation ending “forced arbitration clauses” that not only keep secret details of allegations but force the accusers into accepting money for silence.

USA Today writes (Dec. 16), “A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation that would eliminate forced arbitration clauses in employment agreements that advocates say silence women in sexual harassment and gender discrimination cases.

“Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill. and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., are sponsoring the legislation, Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act. GOP co-sponsors are Sen. Lindsey Graham and Reps. Walter Jones, R-N.C., and Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y.”

“What I’ve said from the beginning since my story broke 17 months ago,” Carlson told The Hill (Dec. 7), “is that sexual harassment is apolitical. It is completely disingenuous to believe some groups of women and not believe others, and that’s what we’re seeing play out right now.”

Clearly, the conversation will continue as more women come forward. And the message for men is equally clear.  They need to listen to women instead of believing their actions are just part of a mating ritual. They need to take a hard look at their own habits and behavior and then act in a way that demonstrates respect and responsibility.

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