When Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for Jeff Sessions’s Senate seat, was accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old, dating teenage girls, and being banned from his local mall, Democrats loudly decried Moore’s egregious behavior. They asserted that sexual harassment and assault was unconscionable, intolerable behavior unbecoming of any U.S. Senator.
When Senator Al Franken was accused of sexual predation, Republican senators and President Donald Trump, who has himself professed a propensity for groping women without their consent, in turn jumped to lambast the Minnesota senator. And while many Democrats called for an ethics investigation into Franken’s behavior, they did not all call on him to resign. When a member of their own party was accused, Democrats in Congress wavered, protecting the perpetrator instead of the victim. Suddenly, sexual predation became an inappropriate mistake.
I was a strong supporter of Franken and believe, politically, his views map onto mine perfectly. I support his commitment to equality, civil rights, affordable health care for all Americans, and supporting the middle class, among other key Democratic principles that I endorse unwaveringly.
On the other hand, I believe Roy Moore’s vision for the country is fundamentally abhorrent. Moore is a candidate who has built his career attacking the constitutional rights of Americans by attacking gay marriage, restricting the agency of women over their own bodies, and claiming a U.S. Congressman could not serve because of his religion.
But their politics—and my beliefs about their politics—are irrelevant when it comes to evaluating their personal behavior. Sexual assault is not a partisan issue. Sexual assault affects everyone—men, women, and children—in society. We are all vulnerable to it. Yet too many defend it for partisan political gain.
On a recent episode of the liberal news podcast “Pod Save America,” one pundit called upon listeners to “say what it takes to heal a culture.” This is my answer.
We need to make women feel comfortable coming forward with allegations of assault. We need women to know that their complaints will be heard and believed, and that justice will be served. We need men to stop assaulting women.
We need people to stop believing that these goals are impossible to achieve. And to do this, we need to demonstrate that there are repercussions to sexual violence and intimidation, whether it manifests itself as assault or workplace harassment, or anywhere on the sickening spectrum in between.
Al Franken has unapologetically joked about rape, touched a woman’s breasts without her consent, and allegedly groped three other women during photo ops. Men, women, and children should know that Al Franken’s behavior renders him unworthy of the honor of serving as a U.S. Senator. His “shame” is not enough—and his apology was shameful.
Any Democrat who excuses Franken’s lascivious behavior—whether it be out of cynicism for our political future or another reason—must recognize that they, too, are part of the problem. By refusing to call upon Franken to resign, we are telling perpetrators of sexual assault and harassment that we will idly accept their fake apologies and gross behavior.
Don’t tell me that Franken’s behavior is acceptable because what Roy Moore—or Donald Trump, or any other politician for that matter—did was worse. They should resign too. The fact that they will not should make Democrats even more committed to changing the culture that allows men to perpetuate sexual assault and harassment and stay in power.
If Franken truly respected women or desired repentance, he would have resigned already. And if Democrats truly respect women, they would have called upon him to do so.
Anna M. Kuritzkes ’20, a Crimson Editorial editor, is a History and Literature concentrator in Pforzheimer House.
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If Betsy DeVos Won’t Do It, Harvard MustHarvard must combat the narrative of DeVos’s decision—automatically doubting survivors’ allegations of sexual assault—and, instead, fully attend to students involved in sexual harassment cases.
The Harvard Community is Responsible for Sexual AssaultI am not trying to remove responsibility from the men who attack women. Their behavior must change—but so should the behavior of people not directly involved in sexual assaults.