LETTER: Sexual harassment disclosure is tough

To the Editor:
The other day, Alabama candidate Roy Moore, complained about the women accusing him of sexual harassment, asking why they waited 40 years till just a month before the election.
“Coincidence? I don’t think so” said Moore.
It was no coincidence, but not for the reasons he claims.
First, you need to look at the social situations that, traditionally, women have faced after they report harassment. Often, women face dismissive or cynical responses; “Aren’t you exaggerating?” or “Were you dressed too sexy?“
Because sex crimes are done in private, lying is the favorite tool of the perpetrator, resulting in a “she said, he said” situation, of which women often lose. Men have no idea what a huge risk it is for a woman to make such claims, because when these claims are dismissed, the woman is blamed, shamed and her reputation is ruined in a way that rarely happens to men.
The potential of disbelief is enough for some women to remain quiet about a crime. For an example of this, look at all the people in Alabama that say they don’t believe. The irony of men not believing now is that it is the same deterrence that women faced when they first considered going to the police in the past.
Regarding the “timing” issue, consider a woman abused who decides not to tell on the perpetrator. Over the years, she might not ever see the man again and perhaps she now seldom thinks about the crime. But if a man who sexually harasses women later campaigns for election to the U.S. Senate in a state where his victim lives, then that woman will see and hear his name, as much as several times a day.
This gives a woman a lot of chances to remember horrible events and to finally decide to do something.
By making himself so public, Moore has actually created the incentive to be reported. It is not an issue of politics but rather of mere public exposure. This situation is nonpartisan because it can happen to a Democrat just as well as a Republican. Moore’s supporters, perhaps, have no problem believing Monica Lewinsky.
Moore’s claim is that its just politics, but to believe this is to ignore the history of the last six months. Since Bill Cosby was accused of sexual harassment, the authorities and the public have taken these accusations more seriously than ever before. Women watching other women bravely make their claims, as so many have done recently, are sensing a new era where sexual harassment is no longer casually dismissed.
Considering all this, its very reasonable that sexually harassed women would now go public at this time, and I predict that there will be more coming.
Gary McDermott, Chittenango

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