Tuesday, November 21, 2017
The celebrity men are falling. Charlie Rose is the latest formerly venerated but large egoed man to fall under the weight of sexual harassment allegations. The line of the dethroned is getting longer, but the time is getting shorter.
During the 1980’s I was one of a handful of lawyers who tried divorce cases on grounds of abuse. “No Fault” divorce had arrived in all but a few states. Trying cases on any other grounds was considered distasteful. But my clients wanted their truth heard in court. The judgments my clients received would today be considered amazing. In the 80’s the judgments were viewed as just compensation for the suffered abuse.
Then came the 90’s. Domestic abuse was discussed widely and openly. Those jurisdictions that had not yet enacted civil protection order statues, did so. Slowly women, who were primarily if not exclusively the petitioners, came forward to demand protection. Judges heard stories of abuse that shocked them.
But then things changed.
So many women came forward seeking protection from abuse that judges assumed that not all of the women’s claims could be true. Judges had difficulty accepting the prevalence of gender bias. By the end of the decade, the seeds had been sown in family court culture for women seeking divorce to be found not credible in that surely women were seeking protection orders only to gain a “leg up” in the divorce proceedings. No mind that all of the data shows that seeking a protection order does not result in an advantage for the abused parent. Quite the opposite. Raise abuse when children are involved, and the mother's presumed motive will be to "alienate" the children from their father.
So I am compelled to raise the alarm. With so many women, and some men, coming forward alleging sexual harassment by celebrities what will be the tipping point where accusers are branded as liars? Am I being an unnecessary alarmist?
We have not scratched the surface of sexual harassment. Rather than #MeToo, perhaps #NotMe would give a more accurate count of who has and has not been the victim of sexual harassment. I am afraid that our non-celebrity sisters will be deprived of their opportunity to air their grievances and be believed. That is where the work needs to be done. Finding platforms for the most vulnerable to air their stories without retaliation has a short window.
So if you have a plan – whether to provide legal services to those who tell their stories and are vulnerable to immediate discharge from work or other consequences – or if you hope to publicize how common sexual harassment is in all levels of our nation- do it soon.
File legislation, record the stories of our unknown sisters, bring the powerful to the workplace to prevent firing when disclosures are made, Prepare for the backlash and have a plan to defeat it - but do it within the next fifteen minutes.