FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 14, 2017
Contact: Brie Franklin, Executive Director
Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA)
Direct Line: 303-839-0029
CCASA Calls on the Media to Keep Focus Where it Belongs
Sexual violence is a complicated topic to understand and crimes of sexual violence, including sexual harassment, are among the most underreported crimes in our society. Compounding the problem is that media coverage of these crimes often perpetuates stereotypes and myths, rather than providing well-written, fact-based stories. Covering sexual violence requires context — an understanding of who perpetrates these crimes, who is affected, and how sexual violence can be prevented. When the media chooses to criticize the actions of survivors and bystanders instead of focusing on the choices of perpetrators, journalists stand in the way of meaningful cultural change necessary to support survivors, hold offenders accountable, and create safer communities.
SURVIVORS’ CHOICE MATTERS. Disregard for individuals’ choices and autonomy is at the core of sexual violence perpetration, including sexual harassment. Disregard for survivors’ choice to report, or not to report, is a shade of the same color. In a perfect world, survivors would be able to report without fearing personal and professional consequences. However, this is not a perfect world, and we know that many survivors face safety concerns, financial obstacles, custody battles, and social ostracism, amongst other considerations when reporting. Furthermore, we know that victims of workplace sexual harassment fear repercussions that make it difficult to continue at the workplace, such as lowered reputation, questioning of credibility and competency, reassignment, and even loss of their job. All this to say that reporting is a significant decision for a survivor with significant consequences to consider.
Calling for Speaker Duran’s resignation, based on the grounds that she did not take action after becoming aware of fellow legislator’s inappropriate conduct, sends a dangerous message: victim choice does not matter, and the consequences that may affect the victim are not important. Under the current policies and procedures, Speaker Duran could not launch an investigation or formal disciplinary action without the survivors’ consent to do so. She is doing so now, because Representative Winter, amongst others, have made the brave choice to publicly come forward about their experiences of sexual harassment. SURVIVORS’ CHOICE MATTERS, ALWAYS.
Speaker Duran came into an existing culture at the Capitol and, having heard, believed, and supported the choices of survivors who wanted to remain silent at the time, is now leading the charge to dismantle the “culture of silence” and victim blaming that fosters sexual harassment and violence. We have no doubt that there are other survivors who are still choosing to remain silent, and other perpetrators that have not yet been publicly named but who are known in unofficial circles and by other leaders – both democratic and republican – in the legislature. Focusing on Speaker Duran, as if she alone created and is to blame for this culture, is shifting attention from where it should belong. We need to respect survivors’ wishes and instead realize that perpetrators are the ones responsible.