Public officials should be held more accountable for sexual misconduct

by Chance Page, Staff Writer

Many prominent figures have recently been exposed for their sexual misconduct, thanks in large part to the #MeToo movement. This movement has emboldened sexual assault victims to speak out against their abusers, and has been successful in punishing some of these alleged abusers with a loss of jobs and sponsorships.

However, one field where sexual assault or harassment allegations have often failed to bring about the punishment of the accused is in government.

In recent weeks, prominent figures in both the Republican — U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore — and Democratic — Congressmen Al Franken and John Conyers — parties have been accused of various acts of sexual abuse. Coupled with allegations that surfaced more than a year ago of current President Donald Trump committing sexual assault, this makes four accused men — if Moore wins his election — serving at the highest level of government.

These also represent four men who have faced little backlash among their political allies for these actions, with Moore still running in Alabama and Trump and Franken remaining in office. Only Conyers has been pushed out of office, announcing that he was stepping down on Tuesday.

The allegations against Moore haven’t shaken the support of the Alabama GOP. Trump also recently announced his support for Moore in the Senate race. It appears that prominent senators, including Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are retracting their previous promise of expelling him from the Senate if Moore is elected. While Moore has had his support erode after his allegations of child molestation came to light, there is still a large possibility of him winning according to a CBS News poll released Sunday.

The Republican party initially rejected Moore after allegations emerged, but later accepted him again by reinstating funding for his campaign. This mirrors their handling of the Trump allegations when they emerged in Oct. 2016.
After 16 women came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct committed by Trump, many Republicans condemned him and swore not to support him. However, by election time, most Republicans returned to the fold. There was no action taken against Trump when he took office.

It is not just Republicans who have failed to punish their colleagues for their misconduct. Two Democratic congressmen who have been accused of sexual harassment also remain in office.

Four women have come forward alleging that Sen. Franken from Minnesota, had sexually harassed them. One account showed Franken groping one of his alleged victims while she slept. Some of his Democratic colleagues have condemned him. However, regardless of recent polls indicating he lost a lot of support in Minnesota, many of his colleagues have chosen to stand by him. Franken remains in office.

John Conyers, Rep. from Michigan and the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, was accused of making unwelcome advances on congressional staffers. He then used federal funds to quietly settle with his accusers. While there is less support for Conyers than the others mentioned, some of his fellow Democrats, including House Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi, cast doubts on the allegations. Conyers finally stepped down on Tuesday, but the hesitance of Democrats to condemn Conyers is still disturbing.

Despite the recent #MeToo movement to out sexual abusers, there are still many people, including their political allies, who support the accused.

Even the claims of a single accuser who has no documented evidence should be thoroughly investigated.

These abusers must held accountable. Voters should not vote for them when they are up for election. This ensures that they are denied a public position of power in which they can commit these abuses.

For quicker action, call or e-mail representatives. Demand that they take action against their abusive colleague.

But most importantly, in the same way that powerful politicians should hold their colleagues accountable, we too should serve as positive forces for justice in our communities. Not only should we condemn abusers who are politicians or famous people, but we should also not defend bosses, co-workers, friends or family members who act in an abusive manner.