Today a senator resigned because six women who claimed he had harassed them were believed, and thirty-two senators of his own party—the Democratic party—called on him to resign. Thirteen of these were female and nineteen male.
Many folks felt that his offenses were mild considering that the current President has bragged about “grabbing women by the pussy” and has been accused of all kinds of groping, voyeurism, crude remarks, and assaults. This same week there is a Republican candidate running for the Senate who has been credibly accused by multiple women of child sexual abuse.
Many people felt it was a shame because he supports feminist causes and because he is an outspoken liberal in a time when conservatives are controlling both House and Senate.
But still, the senator resigned.
I want to remind people that we are still living in patriarchy. What that means is that, when women are abused, there will always be something more important going on. There will always be a reason why women should set aside our issues and our grievances to work for some greater good or more urgent need. Always. I mean always.
Today, between 9 and 33% of women in the US military report experiencing an attempted or completed rape during military service. Let me emphasize the word “report.” Consider that this year, 58% of victims who reported experienced reprisals or retaliation. Congress has been holding hearings on this for decades, but nothing changes. Why? Because the military is focused on the “real” enemy, the “real” violence. These women reporting are disrupting chains of command, generating divisions and distractions, and undermining morale in a time of war. Now is never the time or place to accuse a fellow soldier or commanding officer of sexual violence.
He got out of the car, but she did not. He waited ten hours to report the incident to authorities. In the meantime, she was struggling to survive, contorting her body to catch the last pockets of oxygen… no doubt waiting for Kennedy to get help and rescue her. Some estimates say she survived more than ten minutes. What she did not understand was that now was not her turn. The priority was protecting the senator from scandal.
And Anita Hill was also told that now was not her turn. There was an African American man up for the Supreme Court. That was the priority, not his descriptions of Long John Dong pornography.
But Anita Hill had not waited her turn, and after the hearing that confirmed her harasser (who referred to the hearing--including her participation--as a “high tech lynching”), there was a very serious effort to have her academic career destroyed. Fortunately, a “We Believe Anita” grassroots campaign was birthed to counter the attacks.
Since 1995 a law has been in place allowing accusers to file lawsuits only if they first agree to go through months of counseling and mediation. Counseling? For “False Memory Syndrome?” Or perhaps projection of unresolved daddy issues? Mediation? As in a case where two parties cannot reach agreement? What would that look like? She said he did it; he says he didn’t. In mediation they agree that he may have done it, but has amnesia, or she agrees she experienced it, but it might have been a lucid dream? Fortunately for We the People, a special congressional office is charged with trying to resolve these cases out of court.
And, yes, it appears that even with all this counseling and mediation, settlements do occur… but the members of Congress do not pay them from their own office funds. Unbelievably, confidential payments come out of a special U.S. Treasury fund.
Actually, this is not unbelievable at all. Again, these are important men, elected by their constituents, to make the laws that run this country. Aides and interns need to understand that now is not the time.
When I taught at an elite college, one of my students reported to me that she had been raped by a student on campus. Turns out this was not the first, or even the second report for him. But he was still there. He was an athlete. It was his third time, but, still... it was not the time. Obviously he was a credit to the college. Better she should leave.
My housemate was raped a knifepoint by a man who had stopped his car and begged her for directions. His wife and children sat by him in the courtroom, smiling. He was a middle-class man. My housemate was a hippie student. Not the time. He was a productive member of society, a family man. The issue was her boyfriends.
As a teaching assistant, I had a student react poorly to feminist perspectves of Shakespeare. He sent me a pornographic/slasher paper on “Desdemona, the Cunning Whore of Venice.” I was terrified. I took it to the professor for the course. He met with the man and then removed all the male students from my class. These young men were protecting their right to an education that reflected their perspective. This was not the time for me to make them sounding boards for my pet theories.
Well… I could go on. I have worked almost exclusively with women for more than thirty years, because I was running out of oxygen waiting for my time.
Today, there was nothing more important that the women who were claiming to have been harassed. And thirty-three senators made that clear.
This is huge. I know, I know… there are millions across the country who are wringing their hands that this is not the time to lose a senator with his liberal record. There are millions who are trashing these women and their selfish priorities for not realizing that this was not the time.
I know that. But still…
Today, a group of powerful women said, “Nothing is more important and now is the time.” And, miracle of miracles, the harasser stepped down.
Nothing will ever change for women as long as we keep believing that our pain is not as important as protecting the so-called good guys.