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Sexual harassment: Finally, victims feel that speaking up might bring vindication

Helen Rubenstein

Tony Cornish, Dan Schoen, Roy Moore, Louis CK, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, even George Takei and Al Franken. The list continues to grow, fueled by the outrage of women who have finally had enough. Many high profile harassers have already been named. Many other harassers have victims who have yet to come forward, or never will. Many names will never appear in the media — the employers, co-workers, relatives, friends and acquaintances, strangers. The husbands and boyfriends. Many of the men who use their power over women to assault, harass and humiliate them will never be named.

The floodgates have opened since Harvey Weinstein’s victims began coming forward. It is not surprising that so many — perhaps most — women experience sexual harassment. What is different is that, for the first time, the world did not turn away. Women are being believed and society is taking action to end the impunity of men who use their power to attack and degrade women just because they can. Finally, victims feel that speaking up might bring vindication, instead of disbelief and blame.

Brave women have come forward in the past – Anita Hill, Lois Jenson, Bill Cosby’s many victims. What is different now? What will make a permanent difference going forward? An important difference is the rising chorus of women who continue to name their harassers, abusers and rapists. #Metoo means there is safety in numbers — the strength of a powerful sisterhood standing together and supporting one another.

We at Global Rights for Women work with our sisters around the world to ensure that the crescendo of women’s voices is heard. Last month we celebrated the Resisterhood by inviting women from different communities to tell their stories. One of our speakers was state Rep. Erin Maye Quade, who spoke publicly about the harassment she suffered from male legislators. Like all harassment, her story was about power — a reminder to a new colleague of just who holds the power in that legislative body.

GRW partners with our sisters around the world to address issues of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and domestic violence. We have learned from our decades of work on violence against women that real change begins with women coming together and demanding it. Change is made permanent by enshrining it in laws and practices. Energized by the torrent of stories we are hearing, GRW will continue to fight to end violence against women and girls in whatever form it takes.

Helen Rubenstein is the deputy director of Global Rights for Women, a Minnesota-based NGO that does international legal reform work on violence against women.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 11/22/2017 - 03:28 pm.

    I hope that writers and organizations like this would give the larger public some more specific idea of WHAT measures we should take to prevent this happening in the Everyday of women’s lives. What laws? What processes? What punishments? And,what nuances or gradations of seriousness of the harassment or assault should we recognize? How should they be assessed?

    We can’t just fire every man who ever put a hand on a woman that wasn’t wanted.

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