Study: Survivors of Sexual Assault Experience Real Health Consequences

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Naomi LaChance.

A study published Wednesday suggests sexual harassment and assault can have extended health consequences, including depression, anxiety, poor sleep and high blood pressure.

Among 304 women ages 40 to 60, 19 percent told the researchers they had experienced workplace sexual harassment, 22 percent said they had experienced sexual assault and 10 percent said they experienced both.

Those who had experienced harassment were twice as likely to have high blood pressure and poor sleep, according to the research, which was published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Those who had experienced sexual assault were three times as likely to show symptoms of depression and twice as likely to have anxiety. Women who said they survived a sexual assault also experienced poor sleep.

Insomnia, depression and anxiety have been shown in turn to have negative health implications. High blood pressure can lead to cardiovascular disease, a top cause of death among women.

Rebecca Thurston, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh and the lead author on the study, said predatory behavior can cast a long shadow. “Experiencing sexual harassment and/or assault not only has implications for your quality of life, social functioning and job performance, but also for your mental and physical health,” she said.

The researchers also examined the women’s socioeconomic status and level of education, finding that women who reported being sexually harassed were both highly educated and under financial duress:

<blockquote>Financially stressed women can lack the financial security to leave abusive work situations. Why more highly educated women in the present study were more likely to be harassed is unclear; these women may more often be employed in male-dominated settings, be more knowledgeable about what constitutes sexual harassment, or be perceived as threatening; sexual harassment is an assertion of hierarchical power relations.</blockquote>

This is not the first research into the correlation between sexual violence and health, although it makes an attempt to differentiate itself from past research by relying less on self-reporting and more on hard medical data.

A British study published in June found that four in five teenage girls who experienced sexual assault, many of whom were living in poverty, had depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder four to five months after the assault. A study published in 2012 established a link between women who experienced intimate partner violence and high blood pressure. A 2008 study that looked at low-income workplace abuse also found a correlation between women who had experienced sexual harassment and high blood pressure.

While women are often encouraged to move on emotionally from traumatic experiences, this research shows that sexual assault and harassment should be taken seriously by medical professionals—and everyone else.

“These are often events from long ago, but they are clinically important right now,” said JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director of the North American Menopause Society.

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California’s Gov. Brown Signs 7 Bills Targeting Workplace Sexual Harassment

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Naomi LaChance.

On Sunday, nearly a year after news reports first detailed multiple allegations of sexual abuse against film producer Harvey Weinstein, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed seven bills that address sexual harassment in the workplace. The legislation also encompasses issues such as victim intimidation and retaliation as well as gender disparity. California industry groups lobbied against several measures.

The bills that Brown signed are:

  • S.B. 1300 by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D) prohibits companies from using non-disparagement clauses, which companies add to contracts when an employee is hired or gets a promotion. It also broadens the definition of harassment as something that will “affect the victim’s ability to perform the job as usual, or otherwise interfere with and undermine the victim’s personal sense of well-being.”
  • S.B. 826 by Jackson and Toni Atkins (D) requires that publicly traded corporations include women on their boards or face fines.
  • S.B. 820 by Sen. Connie Leyva (D) bans the use of secret settlements and non-disclosure agreements to keep victims quiet.
  • S.B. 1343 by Sen. Holly Mitchell (D) requires that companies with five or more employees provide sexual harassment training.
  • A.B. 1619 by Assemblyman Marc Berman (D) gives victims ten years — extended from three — to seek damages after a sexual assault.
  • S.B. 419 by Sens. Anthony Portantino (D) and Leyva is framed as whistle-blower protection. It forbids the legislature from retaliating against a lobbyist or employee who files a harassment complaint.
  • S.B. 224 by Jackson specifies that elected officials, lobbyists, investors, directors and producers must follow state anti-harassment guidelines.

There are other related bills waiting in limbo on Brown’s desk as well:

  • A.B. 1870 by Assemblywoman Eloise Gomez Reyes (D) extends the time period from one to three years that a person has to file a discrimination or harassment complaint.
  • A.B. 2079 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D) would require sexual harassment training for janitorial workers.
  • A.B. 3080 by Gonzalez Fletcher bans forced arbitration agreements for claims about wages, harassment, retaliation and discrimination.

Adama Iwu, who has worked to expose sexual harassment in California government, and actor Rosanna Arquette, who was one of the first people to speak publicly about having been sexually harassed by Harvey Weinstein, wrote in support of S.B. 1300. “The bill corrects subtle but significant flaws in our state’s sexual harassment laws. One aspect in particular targets the heart of what this movement has been about: breaking the silence,” they wrote in The San Francisco Chronicle.

“Some workers find that they have signed a ‘release of claims’ agreement that effectively stripped them of any right to pursue sexual harassment claims. Faced with this reality, we ask: What purpose do our laws serve if they can simply be signed away?” Iwu and Arquette wrote.

“California is stating clearly that we believe and support victims,” Sen. Jackson said in a statement.

Still, California industry groups have tried to stop a handful of the bills, claiming that the legislation may hurt workers.

More than 50 industry groups signed a letter in opposition to S.B. 1300, writing that they take issue with the expanded definition of harassment. “These provisions will significantly increase litigation against California employers and limit their ability to invest in their workforce,” they wrote in the letter.

According to state lobbying filings, the California Chamber of Commerce lobbied on S.B. 1300 and S.B. 820. They also lobbied against assembly bills A.B. 1870, A.B. 2079 and A.B. 3080.

“As employers, you want to protect your workforce and the employees that you have working for you,” said Jennifer Barrera of the California chamber. She said new potential mandates and litigation “is what is concerning to employers, who are trying to do the right thing but nonetheless could wind up facing a lawsuit in court.”

The California Restaurant Association, which signed the letter against S.B. 1300, lobbied on S.B. 1300, S.B. 820, and S.B. 1343. They also lobbied against anti-sexual harassment bills A.B. 1870, A.B. 2079 and A.B. 3080.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses lobbied on S.B. 1300, as well as AB 1870, AB 2079, SB 1343 and AB 3080.

John Kabateck of the National Federation of Independent Businesses wrote his opposition to the proposed ban on forced arbitration agreements: “It not only creates massive confusion for employers attempting to comply with the law, but it also creates immense opportunity for trial lawyers to sue,”

Many California workers, however, are ready for concrete change that could hold cultures of workplace abuse accountable. Mira Sorvino, one of the first women to accuse Weinstein of sexual violence, urged Brown to sign A.B. 1870, S.B. 224, S.B. 1343, S.B. 1300 and A.B. 3080.

Sorvino wrote in The Los Angeles Times: “Every time a predator is held accountable, it shows the public’s hunger to stop the gross injustices of sexual harassment, abuse and rape. But when the dust settles, will corporate culture, the entertainment industry, the political arena and religious institutions go back to business as usual — protecting their bottom lines and reputations, silencing victims, keeping abusers in play.”

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The Sexual Predators With Links to Kavanaugh’s Nomination

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Juan Cole / Informed Comment.

I would argue that it is no accident that yet another accusation of sexual harassment against Brett Kavanaugh has surfaced, by his Yale classmate Deborah Ramirez. Persons who do these things do them for reasons of power, not sex, and they typically don’t just do them once. Kavanaugh is denying this allegation as he did the first one, by Christine Blasey Ford. If they accusations are true, one thing Kavanaugh’s behavior did was drive more than one woman into the field of psychology so that she could help victims of sexual abuse.

I cannot know the truth of the matter with absolute certainty, though I’m inclined to believe the two women–all the more so because there are now two. I think it is worth pointing out that the entire process whereby Trump became a celebrity, was elected president, and put Kavaugh forward was itself deeply entangled with practices of sexual predation toward women. I love and respect reporters, and have been one, so I understand the pressure of the deadline and the focus on the last five minutes. But I haven’t seen anyone lay out the historical concatenation of sexual abuse that brought us to this dark moment.

It is amazing to me the way some reporters write about Donald Trump’s smearing of Christine Blasey Ford, in which he said on Twitter Friday that surely she reported the attempted rape to the police. I have not seen one piece of written or television journalism that points out that Trump is himself a serial sexual predator who has openly admitted to groping strange women, under the impression that “they let you get away with it.” Except that some don’t and then you have to pay them to be quiet. Those who do, don’t want the damage to their reputations, or to relive trauma or to risk a billionaire suing them for libel, with a battery of highly paid shysters.

Trump has no credibility to intervene in this matter. Yet just because the Electoral College anointed him despite the popular vote, he is accorded the respect of being taken seriously.

Indeed, what is remarkable about the ugly battle over Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination is how involved sexual predators have been in it.

1. There is Trump himself, who according to the testimony of his victims would try to put his hand up the skirt of random strangers, “touching” their “vagina.”

Another victim, Jessica Leeds, was sitting next to him on an airplanes, and admitted she was kind of interested in being spontaneously kissed by the wealthy and good-looking Trump, but his hand up the skirt made her change her airplane seat. In other instances he just locked lips with women in the street, who did not welcome it. Trump has a fair number of accusers, who have been silenced either through threats or pay-offs. And the powerful, intrepid US press lets him get away with attacking Dr. Ford why?

Trump, moreover, nominated Kavanaugh precisely in order to reestablish men’s control over women’s bodies through the repeal of Roe v. Wade. Trump told Chris Matthews– and no one brings this up– that “there has to be punishment” for women who have abortions. Arranging for criminalizing a woman’s choice and setting women up for jail terms is exactly what the Kavanaugh nomination was about. Not because Trump cares, but because he wants to please his base so as to get a second term, or, perhaps, a dictatorship for life.

2. Mark Burnett, executive producer of The Apprentice at NBC kept renewing Trump’s contract, which was in some years very highly rated, even though he must have witnessed Trump’s use of sexual innuendo, inappropriate comments, and racial slurs over several years. He created Trump as a national celebrity for his corporation’s bottom line despite what was almost certainly intimate knowledge of women being mistreated.

Variety reported in May, “A former contestant on Donald Trump’s reality competition “The Apprentice” has subpoenaed footage from the show, according to a report. Summer Zervos, who has accused Trump of unwanted groping and kissing, is seeking any footage from the show . . .”

Rumors are rife on social media that Ronan Farrow has some Apprentice outtakes of Trump that are damning.

Burnett may be a perfect gentleman in his personal life, and may not have choked Tom Arnold at the Emmys, but you can’t wallow with Trump for years on end without coming up smelling like a swine.

3. Trump was given to us in some large part by NBC, CBS, CNN, Fox and the other giant media conglomerates. In Michael Moore’s excellent new documentary, “Fahrenheit 11/9,” he shows Les Moonves, the head of CBS, glowing about how good the Trump presidential bid and presidency has been for media corporations like his. He admits it might not be good for the country, but is clearly delighted at the impact on the bottom line. CNN and MSNBC and Fox routinely turned their airwaves over to Trump at 7:30 pm every night in the summer and fall of 2016, something they did not do for Hillary Clinton or indeed for anyone in history.

Les Moonves in particular was probably not bothered by Trump’s history of sexual predation, since he had one of his own, exposed by Ronen Farrow and brave women who came forward. So a sexual predator helped give us a sexual predator.

4. Vladimir Putin admitted at Helsinki that he backed Trump, and the St. Petersburg troll farms were ordered by Putin to try to put Trump in by suppressing the Democratic vote (hence the Facebook ad attacks on Hillary Clinton as being responsible for the incarceration of a million African-Americans, being a Muslim Brotherhood asset, etc.)

Putin isn’t exactly a feminist, and would not have scrupled to back Trump just because he is a serial sexual predator. When Moshe Katsav, president of Israel 2000-2007, was accused of being a serial rapist (for which he later went to jail), Putin joked about it. Kommersant reported that when Putin met Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert in the wake of the scandal, Putin had been unimpressed by Katsav until then. Putin exclaimed, “He turns out to be a really powerful guy! He raped 10 women!” He is said to have added, “We all envy him.”

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McDonald’s Workers Strike Over Widespread Sexual Harassment

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Naomi LaChance.

McDonald’s workers in 10 U.S. cities plan to strike Tuesday at lunchtime over sexual harassment and subsequent retaliation at the fast-food company.

“Whatever [anti-harassment] policy they have is not effective,” Mary Joyce Carlson, an attorney with Fight for $15, a fair pay organization, told The Associated Press. Carlson has been working with 10 McDonald’s workers who filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about predatory workplace behavior including groping and propositions for sex.

“I couldn’t deal with it physically, just going into the workplace,” Tanya Harrel said. Harrel, who claims to have experienced sexual harassment twice from two different coworkers over the course of a month at a New Orleans McDonald’s, filed a complaint with the EEOC backed by the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund. She also took some days and weeks off from work.

“I couldn’t afford to pay my phone bill, couldn’t afford my grandmom’s medicine. I had to really ask people for money because I was so scared to go back to work,” Harrel said.

“All the men feel like they have all the power, so they’ll cut your hours. Or if they can’t, they’ll just make your day a living hell,” Adriana Alvarez, a Chicago-based strike organizer and McDonald’s employee, told The New Republic. “They make you feel like you are nothing, just because you tried to stand up against them.”

Workers in Chicago, Durham, N.C., Kansas City, Mo., Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Orlando, Fla., San Francisco and St Louis are planning to take part in the strike.

“Most companies have a policy saying no sexual harassment, but how do you make that work? Right now, because of the huge power disparities, it’s easy to just wait out the complaints and nothing really changes,” National Women’s Law Center CEO Fatima Goss Graves told The Associated Press. Graves’ organization runs the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund.

McDonald’s, in an email to The Associated Press, defended itself: “McDonald’s Corporation takes allegations of sexual harassment very seriously and are confident our independent franchisees who own and operate approximately 90 percent of our 14,000 U.S. restaurants will do the same,” the company said.

In 2016, 15 restaurant cashiers and cooks teamed up with Fight for $15 to file complaints about sexual harassment at McDonald’s with the EEOC as well. Reuters reported that McDonald’s “did not immediately comment on the company’s sexual harassment policy or what, if any actions, were taken after the 2016 accusations.”

But in the time of #MeToo, the workers going on strike Tuesday maintain hope that their demands will be heard.

“I am a person; I am a woman. I matter,” Harrel said.

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Moonves Out at CBS as 6 More Women Accuse Him of Sex Offenses

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Naomi LaChance.

Update from The Associated Press:  

CBS said Sunday that CEO Leslie Moonves has resigned, hours after more sexual harassment allegations surfaced involving the network’s longtime leader. A statement posted on CBS’s website says Moonves’ resignation is effective immediately.

The network’s chief operating officer, Joseph Ianniello, will serve as president and acting CEO while CBS’s board of directors looks for a replacement. 

Six more women have come forward accusing CBS CEO Leslie Moonves of sexual harassment or assault, according to a report published in The New Yorker on Sunday. He is accused of forcing a woman to perform oral sex as well as exposing himself, groping, committing physical violence, intimidation and career-damaging retaliation.

Moonves is negotiating his exit and has been offered a $100 million package, according to CNBC. Last month, The New Yorker published a report that detailed six other women’s accusations against Moonves of harassment, intimidation and abuse.

“It’s completely disgusting,” writer Jessica Pallingston, one of the accusers, told The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow about Moonves’s potential exit deal. “He should take all that money and give it to an organization that helps survivors of sexual abuse.”

Pallingston has accused Moonves of coercing her to perform oral sex on him during the ’90s when she worked as his temporary assistant. Several massage therapists also accused Moonves of sexual harassment.

“The appalling accusations in this article are untrue,” Moonves told The New Yorker. “What is true is that I had consensual relations with three of the women some 25 years ago before I came to CBS.”

Television executive Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb, who worked with Moonves in the late ’80s, said she filed a complaint with the Los Angeles Police Department accusing him of abusive behavior including forcing her to perform oral sex on him and throwing her against a wall. “You sort of just go numb. You don’t know what to do … it was just sick,” she said.

Two law firms have been hired to investigate the accusations for CBS.

 

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Louis C.K. Back Onstage Following Sexual Misconduct Admissions

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Ilana Novick.

Visitors never know who they’ll see on any given night at the Comedy Cellar in New York City. Sure, there’s a posted list of acts, but much of the audience secretly hopes for an unannounced drop-in from a comedy titan such as Chris Rock or Dave Chappelle, who use the brick-walled basement space to work out new material.

Until recently, Louis C.K. was frequently on the posted list, despite persistent rumors of sexual harassment, namely that he frequently, and nonconsensually, masturbated in front of female comedians.

In November 2017, in the wake of the #MeToo movement and film producer Harvey Weinstein’s fall from grace, C.K. admitted that the rumors were true. He retreated from public life, leaving the public to argue about the severity of his actions, and whether and how he could achieve redemption. That is, until Sunday night. In an unannounced appearance, C.K. returned to the Comedy Cellar, less than a year after he admitted the rumors were true, Jezebel’s Anna Merlan reported Tuesday.

During his performance, C.K. never mentioned his sexual misconduct. Comedy Cellar owner Noam Dworman told The New York Times that he covered “typical Louis C.K. stuff—racism, waitresses’ tips, parades.” Dworman said it felt like any other time C.K. had come into the club to test-drive new jokes. Mo Amer, another comedian sharing the stage that night, said, “It was like a ‘wow’ moment.”

Merlan didn’t see it that way, writing that C.K. was “clearly testing whether the time is right for his comeback.”

Multiple female comedians say that they have faced backlash for going on the record about C.K.’s misconduct.

Megan Koester, a writer and comedian who attempted to report on the allegations in 2015, during the Montreal Just for Laughs comedy festival, wrote a Vice article titled “I Tried to Break the Louis C.K. Story and It Nearly Killed My Career.” In it, she details not only countless incidents of people who harassed her online, but how she got thrown off of red carpets while reporting, and how she could never tell whether she lost meetings and jobs because she was legitimately not a good match for them, or because she had dared to question the conduct of a famous man.

Comedian Rebecca Corry, another C.K. accuser, wrote on vulture.com that “I’ve received death threats, been berated, judged, ridiculed, dismissed, shamed, and attacked.”

Merlan believes that C.K.’s return to the Comedy Cellar stage is part of what she sees as a larger image rehabilitation push for men accused of sexual harassment, even assault:

<blockquote>CK’s cautious reappearance comes at the same time as the latest in a series of Page Six stories about Matt Lauer’s hopes of reappearing on TV. The former NBC host was accused of a truly disturbing series of violations, including reportedly locking a woman in his office—via a special button he’d had installed under his desk—and sexually assaulting her until she passed out. (“I’ve been busy being a dad,” he reportedly told a group of well-wishers recently. “But don’t worry, I’ll be back on TV.”)</blockquote>

She notes that journalist Charlie Rose, chef Mario Batali and actor Jeremy Piven are also all exploring comebacks.

Dworman told the Times that while “[e]very complaint goes through me like a knife,” and “I care about doing the right thing,” he’s not ready to ban C.K. from his club, emphasizing that “there can’t be a permanent life sentence on someone who does something wrong.” He didn’t say how long the sentence should be, however, or offer suggestions about what abusers can do to win their redemption.

The Times coverage didn’t mention plans for any future C.K. appearances at the Comedy Cellar, or any new television or film projects.

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Rose McGowan to Asia Argento: ‘Do the Right Thing’

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Kasia Anderson.

It’s hard to believe it has been less than a year since the most recent phase of the #MeToo movement began, building on the work founder Tarana Burke started a decade before, with a series of news breaks about sexual harassment in Hollywood. “Breakthroughs” might be a better term to describe the headlines that shaped that moment last October, when movie producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of multiple instances of sexual assault. Since then, the effects of the ensuing cultural reckoning have ranged far beyond the film business and have proved more complex and resistant to easy categorization than they may initially have seemed.

One of Weinstein’s first and most vocal accusers, actor and activist Rose McGowan, is uniquely aware of the stakes and complications involved at this stage. Those following her story know that she had formed an alliance with fellow Weinstein accuser, industry colleague and #MeToo supporter Asia Argento. McGowan came to Argento’s defense in June after Argento’s partner, chef-turned-raconteur and TV star Anthony Bourdain, committed suicide.

But McGowan had yet to comment at length about more recent, troubling allegations about Argento’s personal history, claims Argento has denied. That was until Monday, when McGowan released the statement posted in full below.

<blockquote>I would first of all like to start off this statement saying thank you for your patience. A lot of people have been demanding answers and a response to the recent events surrounding Asia Argento’s sexual assault case. Many people believe that because we have been close in each other’s lives over the past year that perhaps I am affiliated with this incident or being complicit. I am not. 

I first met Asia on a red carpet, but it’s only been the past year through our shared experience of the HW [Harvey Weinstein] case that we have bonded. Asia was a person who understood my trauma in a way that many others didn’t. We were able to talk through them together and champion each other’s voices. We even got matching dot tattoos! Something I had posted on my IG [Instagram] just about a month ago. It’s no secret to anyone that I’m a blunt, candid, brazen individual vocally—and I think that’s what I really related to Asia the most with. They were edgy, confrontational, and strong willed with very little care about how much other’s liked or disliked them. Rare things to find in women in this industry or the world. 
 
But then everything changed. In an instant. I received a phone call and series of messages from the being I’ve been dating—Rain Dove. They said that they had been texting with Asia and that Asia had revealed that she had indeed slept with Jimmy [Bennett]. Rain also shared that Asia had stated that she’d been receiving unsolicited nudes of Jimmy since he had been 12. Asia mentioned in these texts that she didn’t take any action on those images. No reporting to authorities, to the parents, or blocking of Jimmy’s social media. Not even a simple message “Don’t send me these images. They are inappropriate.” There were a few other details revealed as well that I am not at liberty to mention in this statement as investigators do their job. 
 
Rain Dove said that they were going to go to the police with these texts once we were done speaking no matter what. But that they wanted me to be aware of them so that I may be able to take further actions. I responded with “You have to. You must.” I wasted no time. It wasn’t hard to say or support. What was hard was the shell shock of the realisation that everything the MeToo movement stood for was about to be in jeopardy. An hour after our conversation was finished Rain Dove confirmed that they had turned over the texts and were in conversation with officers. Almost 48 hours later the texts were in the press. 
 
I had introduced Rain Dove to Asia Argento last month, three days after the passing of Anthony Bourdain. I was with Asia to comfort and support her. Rain Dove came to support us both. It was an emotionally chaotic time and Rain Dove suggested we go to Berlin for a couple days to take the mourning out of Asia’s home and into a neutral space. So we did. While in Berlin Asia had mentioned that she was being extorted for a large sum of money every month by someone who was blackmailing them with a provocative image. No one in the room knew who the extortionist was. Now we know it to be a reference to this case. 
 
Rain Dove continued on communicating with Asia occasionally after meeting her—and their conversations have been their own. I know Rain is a person to whom many high profile entities consult when they are experiencing social pressures because Rain is good at guiding them through the research, confrontation, rehabilitation, and solution process. While they are a person who is good at keeping a secret for those dedicated to making things right—they are also justice driven. So it was not a surprise to me that I received that call and the messages from them. I’ve referred to Asia in the past as “My Ride or Die” and said very clearly that their friendship comes first. I know that coming to me with those messages must have been hard for Rain because of that so I commend them for their bravery. 
 
To the people who have checked in with me to see if I’m alright—the answer is thank you and Yes. I’ll be fine. Its sad to lose a friend connection, but whats even more sad is what happened to Jimmy [Bennett]. Whether or not the extortion case is true—it wasn’t fair and it wasn’t right. It is the type of thing I fight against alongside so many. The reason I haven’t released a statement is because I’ve frankly been extremely humbled by this event. I had to take a step back and realise that in my own activism while I fight hard with passion—I need to evolve. In the past I have been occasionally angry. As a victim I was justified in fiery feelings. But I know that those accused are the friends, parents, and family members of other people. There absolutely should be no leeway or tolerance for sexual assault. Hard stop. NONE. Victims also shouldn’t be told how they should react or what they should say about their abusers. However as allies to the victim and voyeurs of an event we should find a better way to balance support of the victim with due process for the accused. I’ve never claimed to be perfect. This week especially has made me come to terms with the fact that we all have a lot of growing to do, including myself. 
 
At this current moment it may be easy to focus on the drama of the situation. The conspiracy. But the real focus should be on supporting justice. Supporting honesty. And supporting each other. We can not let this moment break the momentum of a movement that has freed so many people. We must use it to allow us to become stronger. More compassionate. More aware. And More organised. 
 
Asia you were my friend. I loved you. You’ve spent and risked a lot to stand with the MeToo movement. I really hope you find your way through this process to rehabilitation and betterment. Anyone can be better—I hope you can be, too. Do the right thing. Be honest. Be fair. Let justice stay its course. Be the person you wish Harvey could have been.</blockquote>
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As #MeToo Sexual Misconduct Claims Mount, Half of States Act

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by DAVID A. LIEB / The Associated Press.

As the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct began snaring politicians, state legislatures across the country vowed to re-examine their policies to prevent harassment and beef up investigations into complaints of sexual wrongdoing.

About half of all state legislative chambers have followed through with at least some sort of change to their sexual harassment policies, most often by boosting their own training, according to a 50-state analysis by The Associated Press. But the others have done nothing this year, even as sexual misconduct allegations against lawmakers have been mounting.

The mixed response highlights both the political pressure to act and the institutional resistance to do so that exists in many state legislatures, where women now serve in record numbers yet remain outnumbered 3-to-1 by men.

“In the wake of Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo movement that swept across different industries, we had to act,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Nily Rozic of New York, which mandated more robust sexual harassment policies for government agencies and private employers.

But “I think we have a long ways to go in addressing sexual harassment in legislatures across the country,” she said.

Since the start of 2017, at least 30 state lawmakers have resigned or been kicked out of office following allegations of sexual misconduct, according to an AP tally. The most recent was Maine Rep. Dillon Bates, a Democrat who quit this past week while denying claims of inappropriate relationships with students.

An additional 26 lawmakers have faced repercussions such as the loss of party or committee leadership positions since last year, including Maryland Del. Curt Anderson, a Democrat who was removed from his leadership posts Friday after an investigation into sexual misconduct. Numerous others have had allegations brought against them.

Most of those cases came to light since October, when media reports about sexual misconduct allegations against Weinstein, the Hollywood mogul now facing sexual assault charges in New York, led to a national movement of people going public with claims that they also had been sexually harassed or abused, sometimes years ago.

Rhode Island Rep. Teresa Tanzi was among the first to come forward , asserting that a high-ranking legislator whom she did not identify had told her that sexual favors would help her bills go further. The disclosure prompted the House to offer sexual harassment training and to place Tanzi, a Democrat, in charge of a task force to recommend changes to state law.

But the experience ultimately left Tanzi frustrated. With this year’s session nearing its end, the panel’s work was put into a package of bills that would have barred confidentiality agreements in civil rights violations, extended employee protections to interns and volunteers, and required employers to conduct sexual harassment training. None of the bills passed.

“It really to me felt as though it were just a dog-and-pony show,” Tanzi said.

When the AP surveyed state legislatures in early January, about three-quarters of the House and Senate chambers nationwide indicated they were considering or had recently made changes to their sexual harassment policies. As of August, the AP’s follow-up survey found that about half of the 99 state legislative chambers actually had made changes. More than two dozen that previously indicated they were reviewing policies have yet to make any substantive changes, though some are still considering it.

The AP’s analysis also found :

— The most common response among lawmakers has been to boost their own training about sexual harassment. About half the legislative chambers have done so, typically by making it mandatory or providing it more frequently. But legislative chambers in one-fifth of the states still do not require lawmakers to participate in sexual harassment training.

— Legislative chambers in about a half-dozen states have taken action to increase the public disclosure of sexual harassment complaints against lawmakers and to ban the use of public money in sexual harassment settlements.

— Legislatures in about one-fifth of the states added provisions since the #MeToo movement allowing for the external investigation of complaints, which some experts say is an important way of avoiding conflicts of interest and encouraging the targets of harassment to come forward. Even so, fewer than half the legislative chambers nationwide now allow for the external review of complaints.

— Only a few legislatures passed measures that apply beyond state government. Lawmakers sought to strengthen sexual harassment protections for private-sector employees in Arizona, California, Maryland, New York, Tennessee, Vermont and Washington.

“If all you ever do is concentrate on the statehouse … maybe you’re protecting a few hundred people,” said Democratic Rep. Sarah Copeland-Hanzas, who sponsored the Vermont law applying to all employers. “But what about the rest of your workforce? What about all of the restaurants where the waitress doesn’t want to have to go into the back storeroom because she knows that the prep cook is looking for an opportunity to proposition her?”

California has been among the states with the most complaints against lawmakers and the greatest debate over sexual harassment policies.

After about 150 women signed a public letter last October calling out “pervasive” harassment at the Capitol, lawmakers adopted new whistleblower protections for legislative employees who report harassment and began publicly disclosing substantiated complaints against lawmakers and high-level staff members.

A new investigative process, which is expected to be in place in early 2019, will create a special office to handle sexual misconduct complaints. Its fact-finding then will be turned over to a group of outside experts to determine whether complaints can be substantiated and to recommend discipline.

Adama Iwu, a lobbyist behind the letter that sparked the Legislature’s soul-searching, called the plan “bold” because it largely takes the process of evaluating complaints out of legislators’ hands. The Legislature’s leadership, though, will still have the ultimate say on discipline.

Until the new process is in place, people who brought complaints in the wake of #MeToo are still going through an old process that has prompted concerns.

Earlier this summer, for example, legislative leaders reopened an investigation into Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia after her accuser claimed an initial review that failed to substantiate a groping complaint was unfair and incomplete.

California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon called the new policies the year’s “biggest accomplishment,” but acknowledged “there has been a pall over the Capitol.”

“It’s one thing to change policies and procedures. That’s good and that’s a start,” he said recently at the Sacramento Press Club. “But ultimately nothing changes until the culture changes. That cultural change takes a while.”

In some cases, the very politicians who were supposed to be addressing sexual harassment have been accused of misconduct.

Garcia had been the head of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus and a leading figure in the state’s anti-sexual harassment movement before she was accused of it herself.

Illinois Rep. Nick Sauer had been a member of the House Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Task Force until an ex-girlfriend claimed he had posted nude photos of her on a fake Instagram account set up under her name. Sauer, a Republican, resigned from office earlier this month.

Rep. Sara Wojcicki Jimenez, the ranking Republican on the Illinois task force, called the situation “shocking and disappointing” but also an indication that allegations are being taken seriously.

“You’re thinking, ‘Well gosh, we’re trying to do all this good work for reform and new things keep popping up each month,’” Jimenez said. But “because the awareness is raised, people feel more comfortable coming forward. Hopefully then the next step will be that it starts to decline.”

They are among a least 76 lawmakers from 34 states who have been publicly accused or rebuked since January 2017 for sexual misconduct that occurred in recent years, according to the AP’s tally. That amounts to a little over 1 percent of the 7,383 state lawmakers nationwide.

Sexual misconduct was one of the most talked about topics when Florida’s annual legislative session began in January. A Republican lawmaker had just resigned after a Senate investigation found he likely committed sexual misconduct, and a Democratic senator had stepped down after acknowledging an affair with a lobbyist.

Despite bold proclamations, nothing passed to address sexual harassment.

The Florida legislative session was thrown into a chaotic final two weeks as lawmakers scrambled to pass a school safety bill in response to a shooting that killed 17 people at a Parkland high school. Democratic state Sen. Lauren Book, whose constituents were affected by the shooting, said that’s only partly to blame for the demise of sexual harassment legislation.

She also cited “political games” and an “old boy” culture at the Capitol.

“Until we start changing minds and until we continue to push the narrative, we’re not going to get anywhere,” Book said.

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When Doing Good Becomes Doing Bad

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Janice G. Raymond.

Oxfam wasn’t the only nongovernmental organization (NGO) in Haiti where the so-called protectors turned into predators. After the 2010 earthquake, thousands of foreign aid workers arrived in the country. In Port-au-Prince, women on the streets reported that foreigners would give them more than five times the price a local would pay for sex.

Recent revelations of sexual abuse implicating specific NGOs and other agencies that provide relief to some of the world’s most vulnerable people are more widespread than initially reported. The most-publicized depredation involves the former Oxfam country director in Haiti, Belgian Roland van Hauwermeiren, who acknowledged paying for sexual encounters with Haitian earthquake survivors in a villa at odds with a disaster-ridden landscape.  

Taina Bien-Aimé, director of the international Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) and a first-generation Haitian-American and colleague, told me, “To understand the scandal of sexual abuse in Haiti is to understand the country’s history of debilitating colonialism. The history of Haiti for the majority of Haitian women and girls is also an historical arc of sexual violence and harassment at the hands of foreign military men, NGO workers, U.N. personnel and others.”

Haiti has been ravaged by rapacious nations, initially enslaved under French domination combined with a concomitant U.S. economic blockade. Later, in 1915, the U.S. Marines invaded the country and, many say, have never left.

In more recent times, the sexual exploitation of women in Haiti has been carried out by countless waves of U.N. peacekeepers entrusted with helping the country withstand internal conflicts and natural disasters. From 1990 to the present, at least nine United Nations aid operations were assembled to support the people of Haiti. The acronyms multiply: ONUVEH, MICIVIH, MINUHA, MANUH, MITNUH, MIPONUH, MICAH, MINUSTAH, and finally MINUJUSTH. All variously spell out missions intended to assist, stabilize, verify elections, aid in transition, establish a civilian police and build a justice system in the country.

A 2017 U.N. report found that sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers in Haiti was pervasive over a period of seven years. The record of sexual exploitation during the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is the longest—a decade of rape, sexual assault and prostituting that left a legacy of what are called MINUSTAH babies in a country where 59 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and almost 25 percent exist in abject poverty.

Haiti, the first country in the Western Hemisphere and the first black nation to abolish slavery, has found itself at the epicenter of a tsunami of sexual slavery that struck Haitian women and has continued for years. Slavery is a fortissimo word for this large-scale sexual exploitation of women and children, what some would prefer to mute as “survival sex.” But if you are desperate for money or medicine, or you need to feed hungry children by providing sex in exchange for bread, milk or food coupons, your survival is your servitude.

In addition to Oxfam, recent revelations of NGO sexual exploitation have involved the larger corporate-style organizations, including Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). These organizations are flush with funds and led by high-salaried directors.

Some NGOs have enacted policies on prostitution that provide an enabling environment for the sexual exploitation that takes place both within their organizations and on country missions. Amnesty International’s prostitution policy  transforms prostitution into “sex work” by arguing that decriminalization of not only prostituted women but also of pimps and buyers is the best way of protecting women. Ken Roth, director of Human Rights Watch, cheered on Amnesty’s proposal as a praiseworthy poverty program for underprivileged women when he tweeted, “Why deny poor women the option of voluntary sex work?”—a question reminiscent of the chorus of johns who justify their sexual exploitation by transforming it into a welfare system for the women they abuse.

I contacted Oxfam to inquire whether the organization has a policy prohibiting staff from buying “sexual services.” Media have reported that organizational guidance issued in 2006 stated that Oxfam “did not ban the use of prostitutes, but we strongly discourage it. We don’t ban it because we cannot infringe on people’s liberties.” When I asked Tricia O’Rourke, head of news at Oxfam Great Britain, about Oxfam’s 2017 policy, she responded, “Our code of conduct now states that staff cannot ‘exchange money, offers of employment, employment, goods or services for sex or sexual favors.’ The previous code prohibited sex with people in direct receipt of aid—we admit it was wrong not to explicitly prohibit staff from engaging in any kind of transactional sexual behavior and deeply regret this.”

In February, Oxfam’s chief executive, Mark Goldring, was called to account for why Oxfam’s sexual abuse of Haitian women was not disclosed to the U.K. government, its primary funder. The Daily Telegraph reported that Goldring was “expected to claim that Oxfam had not informed ministers of the allegations in 2011 because it believed that staff accused of paying prostitutes were not guilty of exchanging ‘sex for aid’.” It appears that the Oxfam executive made a distinction between using women in prostitution (OK) and trading “sex for aid” (not OK), and in doing so, at that point in time, was ignorant of the organization’s 2017 revised code of conduct.

After the Oxfam scandal, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) announced it had “dealt with” 24 cases of sexual harassment and abuse in 2017, all involving field staff and almost all in mission countries. Nineteen people were dismissed from the organization. When I inquired about its current policy on sexual harassment and abuse, MSF responded that it has a no-tolerance policy that applies to minors and adults. Seeming to contradict the policy, MSF also added, “there is no one global code of conduct for all MSF offices and missions,” although each of its 21 different sections shares the same “binding commitment and vision.”

When asked whether it prohibits its personnel from purchasing “sexual services,” MSF told me, “There is current discussion within MSF to reinforce our policy on sexual exploitation, by explicitly addressing the specific issue of buying services from sex workers, in guidance to all staff.” Yet when asked whether it takes any position on Amnesty International’s policy of full decriminalization of the sex industry, MSF pointed me to its teams in South Africa who, in a response to the South African Law Reform Commission’s report on prostitution, condemned the report for not supporting decriminalization of the sex industry. Instead, MSF South Africa “supports the decriminalization of sex work” and stands “in solidarity” with pro-sex trade groups such as SWEAT and the Sisonke Sex Worker Movement. The organization makes no mention of groups that oppose decriminalization of the sex industry in South Africa, such as Masimanyane or Dignity, both representing survivors of prostitution.

The International Committee of the Red Cross is also on the roster of big corporate NGO abusers. ICRC director Yves Daccord has acknowledged that 21 staffers violated the organization’s policy by paying for “sexual services.” No details of where the sexual exploitation took place were released.

To its credit, the ICRC has long included in its code of conduct an explicit proscription against staffers purchasing “sexual services.” Daccord affirmed that “the ban applies worldwide and at all times, including in locations where prostitution is legal, as the ICRC believes that staff paying for sex is incompatible with the values and mission of the organization.” The ICRC’s policy is contractually binding. Daccord has contacted other NGOs with the goal of preventing offenders from being shifted from one agency to another, a common NGO practice.

And then there was the annual men-only charity benefit in Britain sponsored by the corporate businessmen of the Presidents Club, who for years allowed powerful titans of business, politics, finance, media, entertainment and government to prey on young women at the event. In January, the club hired 130 “hostesses”—who were ordered to wear skimpy, body-clinging, black outfits with matching underwear and high heels—to provide “services” to the male guests. Procured from the Artista agency, the women were told to make men happy. During the event, Artista also showed videos of women dancing in their underwear.

Paraded in at the start of the evening, hostesses were made to smile and strut across the stage for men’s gaze before walking to their assigned tables as the men whistled, cheered and clapped. According to one hostess, certain women wore soaring red heels or red belts so they could be identified as available for “extra duties,” i.e., for sex. As the event went on, alcohol and drugs flowed freely, and the sexual demands became more forceful. One shocked businessman said, “It’s a cesspit … it’s just an upper-class whorehouse.”

At the event and especially at the after-party, where the hostesses were required to stay until 2 a.m., they were groped and propositioned. The harassment included being fondled repeatedly, pulled onto men’s laps, asked to remove their underwear, and invited to men’s rooms in the hotel. Men exposed themselves and asked women if they were “prostitutes.” Caroline Dandridge, the founder of Artista, told the women, to just tell the men, “You’re a naughty boy.” The benefit auctioned off nights at a strip club and a course of plastic surgery that invited men to “add spice to your wife.”

The benefit was not merely an event that got out of hand, with a few rogue men behaving badly. It was deliberately designed to prey on young women and allow the male attendees sex on demand. Apparently, the club was able to mask its misdeeds for 33 years because it raised millions of pounds to aid those in need. The women were made to sign nondisclosure agreements.

Is it surprising that NGO executives and staffers are acting like the corporate businessmen at a Presidents Club benefit? Some, like Goldring at Oxfam, explain their organization’s sexual abuse based on a distinction between “sex for aid” and prostitution. Commentators such as Suzanne Moore, writing in The Guardian, appear to make this same distinction. She claims that Oxfam’s abuse of vulnerable women, while it is “vile exploitation,” is not prostitution because “prostitution implies choice and consent. However, it is not clear how any choice was made, in the devastating aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.”

Minus an earthquake, what does it take to understand that it is not clear how any choice is made for the majority of women in prostitution?

The privileged male abusers of Haitian women are not much different from the privileged male abusers who prowl the streets of major cities in the United States looking “to score,” or who gratify themselves in the legal brothels of Germany, the Netherlands or Nevada. The women they exploit are mostly women whose alleged choice and consent is driven by family breakdown, past and present sexual abuse, poverty, substance abuse and/or a predatory recruiter or pimp who smooths the way–no choice at all, really.

Policies legalizing or decriminalizing the sex industry seem based on a sliding scale that makes distinctions between “especially vulnerable women” and “not-so-vulnerable women.” Should we distinguish between “especially vulnerable women” on the streets of Haiti who swap sex for necessities and those who allegedly are “not so vulnerable” because they provide sex for money in Haiti’s sex clubs and bars? Or is the sliding scale more accurate if we acknowledge that all women who resort to prostitution in Haiti are “especially vulnerable” but not women in European or U.S. sex venues because the latter have more “choice?”

Amnesty International’s prostitution policy has further confused general NGO policy on prostitution by giving prostitution users permission to abuse women, rationalizing that decriminalization of the sex industry benefits women and allegedly preserves their right to prostitute. But whose rights are really being protected here? Amnesty’s policy provides validation for men who would abuse vulnerable women and—like other NGO perpetrators and the corporate abusers of the Presidents Club—call it charity, protection or economic welfare.

There have been many protests in the wake of these NGO scandals. On International Women’s Day, women aid workers published an open letter to senior managers, CEOs and board members of humanitarian and development organizations, demanding reform of the corporate NGO culture that permits sexual harassment and exploitation. The #MeToo movement has also removed impunity from many high-flying and wealthy sexual abusers prominent in Hollywood, the media and women’s sports.

Much has been said about the need to change the culture of organizational sexual abuse—a culture that in large measure is built on the culture of prostitution. Prostitution has been much in the background of the #MeToo movement but much in the foreground of many men’s lives. We need to acknowledge how prostitution and the sex industry are major propellants of the sexual abuse endured by women in everyday life.

Prostitution is the arena in which sexual harassment and abuse are normalized and repeated in nearly every sexual encounter—where sexual abuse is justified because she allegedly consents to it, and he pays for it. Prostituted women experience daily the sexual sadism aimed at women in the entertainment media and the violent acts depicted in gonzo porn—the most debasing genre of pornography that dominates the pornography market. Media sexual sadism and pornography have also been instrumental in desensitizing men to the “regular” sexual abuse they inflict on many women outside of prostitution, abuse for which the #MeToo movement has made men accountable.

Pimp culture has invaded our language, making it hip to use the word. Billboards advertising “pimp smooth” beer, marketers who “pimp” their products and a TV show called “pimp my ride” all pass, especially in youth circles, for something cool. One need not understand the multiple meanings this word conveys in different contexts to know that using that term ignores the actual consequences that pimping inflicts on prostituted women and girls.

I asked prostitution survivor Autumn Burris, director of Survivors for Solutions, about the connections between the sexual exploitation reported by women in the #MeToo movement and the sexual abuse of prostitution. In what has now become a legendary tweet, she responded that prostitution is “#MeToo on steroids.” When asked about her tweet, Burris explained that prostituted women are subjected “to hourly sexual harassment, rape, unwanted advances/penetration and aggressive and violent behavior by white, privileged men sexually commodifying our bodies.”

How can we change the NGO culture of sexual abuse and assault when certain human rights organizations have institutionalized pimping and buying a woman’s body for sex as basic freedoms to protect? How can we change the general culture of sexual abuse and assault if those whose very mission is to do good are doing bad?

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Sexual Harassment Rampant in Science, New Report Reveals

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Ilana Novick.

A new report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) reveals that half of women studying and working in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) positions at American universities have been subject to sexual harassment. And, as STAT, an online journal of biotech, pharma and life sciences, reports, “there’s no evidence that current policies are significantly helping to stem the issue.”

Researchers spent two years surveying female students and faculty who were the targets of sexual harassment, compiling data from women at the University of Texas and Pennsylvania State University school systems, representing 10,000 undergraduates, graduate students and female faculty.

As The Washington Post observed, “Between 20 percent and 50 percent of female students in science, engineering and medicine, and more than 50 percent of faculty, said they had experienced harassment.”

Researchers also found that such harassment was more common for engineering and medical students than it was for students in non-science-oriented fields.

STAT notes how the results of this treatment impacted respondents’ personal and professional lives:

Victims interviewed for the report said they had skipped professional meetings and social situations, dropped out of research projects, and left jobs, just to avoid harassment. They described being mortified, devastated, and outraged in some cases. Many didn’t formally report their harassment, often for fear of retaliation. And some who did said the drawn-out proceedings drained them of precious time and energy to do their work.

Some scientists welcomed the reports’ findings. Heidi Lockwood, a professor of philosophy at Southern Connecticut State University, told The Post that the 300-page report is “a spectacular and encyclopedic piece of research and writing, and will no doubt serve as the touchstone for research, policy and advocacy in this area for years to come.”

Others, while grateful for quantitative data to back up their lived experience, questioned whether NASEM was willing to reckon with its own history of harassment accusations. Inder Verma, formerly a cancer biologist at the Salk Institute and editor in chief of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, resigned from both positions in the last few weeks following sexual harassment allegations.

Geoff Marcy, another NASEM member, resigned from his position at the University of California at Berkeley following a 2015 Buzzfeed article that revealed the university investigated student claims of harassment and found that Marcy had violated the school’s conduct policies.

But NASEM has not revoked Verma or Marcy’s memberships. As BethAnn McLaughlin, an assistant professor of neurology at Vanderbilt University, told The Post, the lack of action “certainly undermines the credibility of the National Academy to implement meaningful change.”

Still, the report offers recommendations for moving forward. They include hiring more women and people of color, especially in leadership positions; creating stronger anti-sexual harassment policies and being more transparent about them; providing more support services to victims of sexual harassment; and offering stricter enforcement of federal anti-discrimination policies such as Title VII.

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