CCASA Calls-on Lawmakers for Bi-partisan Review of the Discipline Process in Response to Sexual Harassment Under the Gold Dome
Photo Credit: https://www.colorado.gov/capitol
THANK YOU to every survivor who has courageously shared their story of survivorship, particularly to those who, maybe for the first time, have found their voice in the resurgence of the #MeToo campaign. You are not alone, you deserve to be believed and because of your bravery, altruism, and fearless leadership a historical injustice has again been illuminated, this time causing Hollywood, newsrooms, and even State Legislatures throughout the country to take responsibility for the gross misuse and exploitation of power that perpetrates sexual violence.
It takes an incredible amount of grit and resiliency for a victim to come forward and it has been our experience that survivors report when they are ready, when they are believed, when they are supported by their communities, and in critical moments when they come to understand that their disclosures – however painful and no matter the cost or personal consequences – might prevent the sexual assault or harassment of another victim. This is a critical moment.
Sexual violence, including sexual harassment, is not about sex but about sexual entitlement and power. Sexual harassment can include inappropriate insults or threats, lewd gestures, leering behavior, requests for sexual favors, unwelcome sexual advances, sexual innuendo frequently disguised as jokes, and sexually explicit statements, emails, or texts. Those in power—executives, comedians, publishers, state legislators— who sexually harass do so to belittle, humiliate, undermine, and control others by using sex or sexually-explicit materials and language. Sometimes their motive is to have power over their victims or to use the power they already have and the illusion of trust that comes with their position of power to coerce victims to engage in unwanted sexual activity. Their actions, although sexual in nature, are essentially about exerting power over another person.
While CCASA is deeply disheartened and appalled to hear news of sexual harassment coming out of our own state Capitol, we must not forget that no industry can claim exception from sexual violence that occurs in the workplace by individuals who use their positions of authority to give license to their abusive actions. We desperately need schools, churches, the military, prisons, colleges, agriculture fields, and every other space to be safe as well – especially in places where women feel like they cannot speak out and be supported. In these critical moments, we must draw from the examples of leaders like Speaker Duran to end a culture of fear and intimidation that silences survivors and instead work to create a culture of respect and accountability where survivors are supported, bystanders engage, and those who choose to sexually harass, abuse, assault, and rape are held accountable.
It is in this sense of urgency that CCASA calls upon the Colorado General Assembly for an objective, bi-partisan review of the discipline process in cases of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
The Statehouse belongs to the people of Colorado and we trust you, our elected leaders, to ensure the safety of every person who comes to exercise their right to testify, of every school child that visits the Capitol on a class field trip, and of every person working under the gold dome – legislator, lobbyist, or other staff – that we will be kept safe and free from any fear of retaliation with fundamentally fair processes well established.
With Colorado now focused on this very important issue, we have an unprecedented opportunity to improve understanding and change cultural norms to create and promote safe environments in our communities. We are encouraged that so many survivors, many of whom have remained silent for years or decades, feel comfortable enough now to speak publicly about their experiences. We also recognize the burden survivors may presently be carrying as a result of the overwhelming outcry of sexual violence disclosures that have occupied the attention of major news networks of late.
Again, THANK YOU to the survivors and community leaders who in the midst of this critical moment have shown a commitment to ending a culture rooted in misogyny and institutionalized inequality, and who are actively working to replace this culture with one that supports the resiliency of survivors and holds dear the fundamental principle of accountability.