Where is the Outrage on Behalf of the Women?

Jan. 11, 2005 — I have been impressed with the organization, the vociferousness and the consistency with which the Animal Care Coalition has responded to the governor’s veto of the Animal Anti-Cruelty bill. They have been extremely successful in rallying support for their worthwhile cause. I have been equally impressed by the absolute silence regarding the findings of a Senatorial committee as to the sexual harassment of not one but a series of women by a seated and recently re-elected senator. The silence has been deafening.
We have heard often, in the territory, the willingness of 'snowbirds" and others who wish to volunteer for this most worthwhile cause. There are absolute cultural and class differences regarding attitudes about animals.
This is not true when it comes to attitudes about women, which transcend all cultural, class, racial and economic differences.
Few persons are upset to the point of writing letters to the editor, or op-ed pieces regarding the ongoing sexual harassment of women. Do we need to look further to wonder why the sexual assault rate of women and children is epidemic; why volunteers are constantly being sought by agencies such as the Women’s Coalition, the Family Resource Center, The Safety Zone; why we appear to take one step forward and two steps backward in our fight against violence in the territory?
Isn’t the relationship between harassment and violence obvious to one and all? Aren’t our attitudes about women, their worth, the respect they deserve and the value they have within our society, deserving of a closer look? Why do we have only one of 15 senators a woman? Why have we never elected a female governor; indeed, why has one never yet run for that office? Why is violation of federal law – sexual harassment in the workplace – being treated with so little importance than a reprimand, a slap on the wrist, as the only consequence of that behavior? Why aren’t women crying out in protest? Do we really believe that women deserve less respect than horses, dogs and roosters?
I commend the nine women who were brave enough to come forward and testify before the Senate committee. I feel that their coming forward has been betrayed by lack of a more forceful measure than a reprimand. As with so many 'whistle blowers,' they are being punished by others not acting more decisively on what is undoubtedly a pattern of behavior which needs to be seriously addressed. Many who know of this pattern have not had the courage to act on their knowledge.
What will happen to our already fragile majority in the Legislature as one member of the majority sues another member of the majority? Where do other members of the majority stand on this issue? Why must our tax dollars be spent in hiring independent counsel to defend the Legislature for enforcing federal law? Is it too much to ask seated senators to obey the law of the land?
Until and unless we move forward with honesty, critical self evaluation and soul searching regarding our deep seated attitudes about women and children, we will remain in the morass of violence – sexual, domestic and more generalized, in which we presently find ourselves. The choice is ours, but without substantive change, and a profound respect for both genders, progress is not possible.
Editor's note: Dr. Iris Kern is the co-founder and executive director of the Safety Zone, an organization providing services and support to victims of domestic and other violence.

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