"I am shocked, shocked to find that sexual harassment is going on in here!" The headlines of the past few months would seem to imply that we have just discovered that sexual harassment exists in many of our institutions.In fact, we have known, we have always known that it has been lurking just behind the glossy veneer of public and private life until the #MeToo movement gained traction. The glare of publicity that only Hollywood can generate about Harvey Weinstein's lascivious acts finally emboldened the victims to rise up in a single voice and shout "Enough is Enough!" to the country.As monumental as this seemed at first, it was but the spark that ignited a conflagration.This flame of justice-denied is spreading into politics, sports, journalism and other private arenas causing the once great and powerful to crumble to dust.
The Me Too slogan has its roots in 2006 as the motto of Just Be Inc. a non-profit begun by Tarana Burke in response to the experiences of a sexually abused 13-year-old girl.In October of 2017 the actress Alyssa Milano converted it to a Hashtag and began the social media frenzy.Some women of color were chagrined because the efforts of Ms. Burke did not receive the support, over the years, of prominent white feminists who quickly lauded Ms. Milano tweet.The Weinstein affair was the tipping point of the rubbish pile built by many other famous names like Bill Cosby, Bill O'Reilly, Roger Ailes, Donald Trump, Bill Clinton… and the list goes on. The most current installment in the story is that of passenger, Katie Campos, on a United Airlines flight from Newark to Buffalo who was accosted by the male passenger seated next to her.While the man was remanded into custody upon landing, very little was done to restrain him or protect her during the flight. This is far from an isolated incident, the FBI reports a 66% increase into midair sexual harassment cases between 2014 and 2017.Airline flight attendants rarely have training in how to handle these situations and while in flight, in a crowded plane the options can be limited.We have a very long way to go before women can believe that our institutions have policies and procedures designed to protect everyone.
This catharsis is unquestionably good for the soul of America but it does pose a moral dilemma, is there a minimal requirement that an accusation must meet before excoriating the accused in the public forum?No woman's testimony can be dismissed out of hand; however, is there a minimal vetting of the facts that can be done before going public? We must be careful to not create an excuse for a backlash by overplaying our hand.The protectors of the "old boy's club" are just looking for an excuse to pillory the courageous women who have spoken up.We must eliminate the legal loopholes that allowed these stories to be suppressed.There should be no statute of limitations on sexual assault.Payouts of large sums of money to settle assault cases must not be tied to non-disclosure agreements.Our governments, national, state and local, must disclose "hush money" payments made with taxpayer money.Our society may be finally maturing but as Winston Churchill said, "this is not the end, this is not even the beginning of the end, but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning". Paraphrased from Captain Renault in Casablanca, Warner Bros, 1942
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