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Ethics & Religion
Column #1,895
December 14, 2017
Hurray for the "Silence Breakers"
By Mike McManus

Why was Judge Roy Moore defeated for the U.S. Senate? Women voted overwhelmingly against him - by 57% to 41%. Moore's documented molestation of girls as young as 14 while he was in his 30s - outraged Alabama's conservative women, who usually vote Republican.

Alabama is a very Republican state. It voted for Trump as President by a 28% margin over Clinton. Its vote for Democrat Doug Jones was stunning, though he won by only 1%.

Certainly, part of the reason for Moore's defeat was a high turnout of African-Americans. However, blacks are only 30% of those who went to Alabama's polls on Tuesday.

What mattered was female anger - not only at Moore, but also at President Trump. On the day of the election, Trump, also an alleged sexual predator, tweeted that Sen. Kirsten Gilliband (D-N.Y.) was a "lightweight," and "someone who would come to my office begging for campaign contributions...and would do anything for them)."

Clearly, he was implying she would have sex with him for contributions.

Gillibrand retorted with her own tweet: "You cannot silence me or the millions of women who have gotten off the sidelines to speak out about the unfitness and shame you have brought to the Oval Office."

News of this exchange on Election Day sparked even more Alabama women to vote against Moore.

Two days earlier, TIME published a 40-page cover story on "The Silence Breakers" - women who have blown the whistle on male predators. TIME praised women "for giving voice to open secrets, for moving whisper networks onto social networks, for pushing us all to stop accepting the unacceptable. The Silence Breakers are the 2017 Person of the Year."

Actress Ashley Judd blew the whistle on Harvey Weinstein's "coercive bargaining" in a hotel room two decades ago. Multiple sexual harassment claims brought down former Today show host Matt Lauer. Nearly 50 women accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault. He was brought to trial on charges he drugged and sexually assaulted Andrea Constand. Though ending in a mistrial, it is scheduled to be retried in April.
In a Nov. 28 poll, 82% of respondents said women are more likely to speak out about harassment since the Weinstein allegations.
TIME published multiple photographs of the Silence Breakers, and summarized their stories. Fear to speak up was common - whether they were stars or strawberry pickers, like Isabel Pascuai, who said, "I was afraid. When the man was harassing me, he threatened to harm my children and me - that's why I kept quiet. I felt desperate. I cried and cried. But, thank God, my friends in the fields support me. I lost the fear."

A major new force supporting women is the #MeToo initiative that was used on Facebook by more than 4.7 million people in 12 million posts during its first 24 hours!

#MeToo reports that 45% of users in the United States have posted personal stories. In the week after @MeToo first surfaced, versions of it swept through 85 countries.

The movement spread quickly worldwide. Michael Fallon, Britain's Defense Secretary, quit the Cabinet after journalist Jane Merrick reported that he had "lunged" at her in 2003 when she was a 29-year-old reporter.

In November the spotlight was back on American politicians. The Washington Post published a credible detailed story quoting Leigh Corfman that Roy Moore abused her when she was 14, and he was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney. Eight other women reported similar stories.

Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.) acknowledged press reports that he used $84,000 in taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit with a former aide in 2014. He denies wrongdoing, but vows he will repay the settlement.

What about the $17 million which taxpayers have unknowingly forked over for 268 transgressions over the past 20 years? House Speaker Paul Ryan told CNN he was not aware of the details of the harassment settlements. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she also knew no details.

This is totally unsatisfactory. Congress should provide detail on every payment made. Guilty Members of Congress should pay back the money, or resign - or both.

Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox News anchor won a $20 million law suit against Roger Ailes for sexual harassment. For a year she has worked with Congress to craft the "Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act" to give victims the right to confront their harassers in court. At present, 60 million workers have clauses in their employment contracts which eliminates their Seventh Amendment right to a fair trial.

Hurray for the Silence Breakers creating a fairer world.

___________________________________

Copyright (c) 2017 Michael J. McManus, President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist. For previous columns go to  www.ethicsandreligion.org. Hit Search for any topic.

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