Speaking Out on Sexual Harassment

Thank you to Colorado State Representative Faith Winter for speaking out about sexual harassment on the part of her colleague Rep. Steve Lebsock. She is the first of a growing number of women who are reporting a pattern of demeaning and inappropriate behavior from a man in power.

Whether it is Roy Moore, Kevin Spacey, Donald Trump, or the myriad of other men who have systematically used their power to sexually abuse and torment women, and men, it is way past time to speak out and name the offenders.

As a child, I suffered through inappropriate touching from an older neighbor boy. I didn’t totally understand what was going on, but my reaction was to stay away from him after that. It became a pattern I practiced wherever possible for the rest of my life. If someone made unacceptable advances, I made every effort to cut them out of my life.

As a Peace Corps volunteer in Latin America, I thought that being married would protect my from unwanted advances. It didn’t. As a government employee, I thought that keeping a rigid professional approach to my work would discourage disparaging sexual commentary. It didn’t.

There was no one to report this to. You kept silent, devised strategies for keeping yourself safe, and kept your door open to counsel other women.

Listening to the Anita Hill testimony in the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court hearings, I cried when male U.S. senators asked her why she didn’t report Thomas’ behavior. Who would you report to? Any advice would be to figure out how to deal with this. You are a grown “girl” playing in powerful men’s playpen. Act like a grown up, even if the men didn’t.

My heart goes out to all of the women who still hide their “shame” in the shadows. I say that because I kept wondering what I was doing to attract that kind of behavior. It must have been my fault.

It isn’t. And the behavior will not change until we turn that shame around to where it should be — in the open and on the part of the offender.

Faith Winter joins the other heroines and heroes who will stand up and say No More. The culture is changing, but only if we are willing to speak and do it loudly.