By James Shipman
Valley County Voices 

A Wave of Courage


December 20, 2017

A wave of courage is sweeping the nation. Men and women from all walks of life have been coming forward to combat sexual misconduct. Media figures like Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly, and Harvey Weinstein have fallen from grace. Even beloved celebrities like Bill Cosby, Louis C.K., and Kevin Spacey have been targeted. And now, our politicians are under fire. Congressmen, candidates, and even the President are among the accused. Sexual misconduct seems far too common and must not be tolerated, from anyone.

For too long, people with positions of power have used that leverage to prey on others. As we have seen, Congress is no exception. And it may be more prevalent than is reported. In a Congressional hearing on Nov. 14, female lawmakers described haunting details of harassment and assault, against lawmakers and staffers alike. One witness testified that two current members of Congress were serial harassers. Names were not given and that's part of the problem. Abusers in power often leverage themselves over victims who fear repercussions of speaking out and Congress's rules about sexual harassment put the burden on the victims. Lawsuits can only be filed after months of counseling and mediation. The case is then decided out of court by a special congressional office. If a settlement is reached, confidential payments come out of a US Treasury fund paid for by the taxpayers. This inevitably keeps the case as private as possible, unfortunately to the benefit of the abuser.

Sen Al Franken (D-Minn) and Rep John Conyers (D-Mich) are among the most prominent members of Congress to be publicly accused. Both have announce their resignation over the last week. The majority of the Democratic Party has condemned their actions and pushed for their resignation. However, this is not a uniquely Democrat issue. Rep Blake Farenthold (R-Tex) has already settled a lawsuit and refuses to resign. Candidate Roy Moore (R-Alabama) and Donald Trump (R) also have a slew of egregious allegations against them. The Republican Party, however, has acted completely differently to these allegations. They openly endorse an accused child molester (Moore) and ignores the accusations against Donald Trump. Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has started a petition for the president to resign immediately. The difference between the two parties reactions couldn't be more clear.

Fortunately, both the House and the Senate have expressed the need for reform. For the first time in American history, Congress is making sexual harassment training mandatory for both the House and Senate. About 1500 congressional staffers have signed a petition demanding an overhaul of how Congress handles sexual misconduct claims. Motions have been passed in Congress to address these issues. Public pressure is needed to push these motions through.

Our public offices must be held to a high standard for the sake of our citizens and the integrity of our Republic. We must not tolerate these abominable actions and force all of these abusers to resign. Those that engage in such behavior are unworthy of office.

Lawmakers and the public must clean house in order to save our democracy. Write and call these politicians. Let them know the American people deserve better and will accept no less.


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