Contact: Teri Stoddard
Bogus Sex Harassment Claims on the Upswing, Says Victim Rights Group
WASHINGTON/ November 1 – Following recent publication of sexual harassment claims against presidential candidate Herman Cain, a leading victim-rights organization is deploring the use of such accusations as a political maneuver. Resurrected in the middle of a closely fought political campaign, such allegations rob true victims of their credibility and trivialize the problem, according to Stop Abusive and Violent Environments.
This past Sunday, Politico published an article that recounted charges by two unnamed women of alleged “inappropriate behavior” by Herman Cain when he was the president of the National Restaurant Association. The Politico essay describes the behavior as “conversations allegedly filled with innuendo or personal questions of a sexually suggestive nature” and “physical gestures that were not overtly sexual.”
False allegations of sexual misconduct have been leveled against candidates of both political parties, including former vice president Al Gore and Massachusetts senator Scott Brown.
The former wife of Democratic congressman Al Wynn (Maryland) once threatened to throw herself down a flight of stairs and then accuse him of attacking her in order to “ruin your political career.” In 2006, former Republican congressman John Sweeney (New York) narrowly lost his re-election bid following a planted media account of domestic violence.
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that conduct must be “severe” or “pervasive” in order to be deemed sexual harassment. The women never alleged that Cain made any inappropriate requests or that his behavior was pervasive. The decade-old claim that his comments or gestures were “severe” is unlikely.
“We live in a society in which false claims are on the brink of becoming the norm,” explains SAVE spokesman Philip Cook. “Much of the problem can be traced to federal laws like the Violence Against Women Act that, despite the considerable good they do, in some ways encourage scurrilous accusations.”
SAVE is recommending that the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act contain strong language to discourage false allegations, including narrowing definitions of abuse, giving priority to victims with evidence of physical abuse, and providing legal help to the accused on the same footing as accusers: http://www.saveservices.org/pvra
One in 10 persons has been falsely accused of abuse, according to a national survey conducted by SAVE: http://www.saveservices.org/falsely-accused/survey
SAVE is a victim rights organization working for evidence-based solutions to domestic violence: www.saveservices.org