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Dealing With Sexual Assault, Harassment Allegations

(Left to right) Film executive Harvey Weinstein, Democratic Sen. Al Franken, and Today host Matt Lauer.

Photo: Creative Commons

(Left to right) Film executive Harvey Weinstein, Democratic Sen. Al Franken, and Today host Matt Lauer.

Noon Edition airs Fridays at 12:06 p.m. on WFIU 1.

From Hollywood to the media to the political sphere, sexual assault allegations have exploded into public view.

Women have come forward with accusations against film producer Harvey Weinstein and Democratic Sen. Al Franken, among many others. Most recently, Today host Matt Lauer and Prairie Home Companion founder Garrison Keillor have been dropped from their programs.

These allegations have brought about the biggest national conversation surrounding sexual misconduct since the Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas controversy in the early 90’s.

This week on Noon Edition, our panelists discussed the shifting view of sexual assault and harassment.

Guests:

Carrie Kruse: Vice President of Direct Services at Turning Point Domestic Violence Services, Columbus, IN

Deborah Widiss: Professor of Law, IU Mauer School of Law

Jennifer Drobac: Professor of Law, IU McKinney School of Law

Peggy Stockdale: Professor of Psychology, IUPUI Department of Psychology

Conversation: Dealing With Sexual Assault, Harassment Allegations

Though women have felt empowered to come forward, Turning Point Vice President of Direct Services Carrie Kruse says these allegations can also be triggering for some.

“Everyone has their own comfort and needs to feel safe to be able come forward and share, whether it be the #MeToo campaign on social media or disclosing to anyone,” Kruse says. “It is important that we know we still have victims that aren’t safe enough to come forward.”

Peggy Stockdale studies sexual harassment as a psychology professor at the IUPUI Department of Psychology.

Stockdale says it’s a confluence of factors that lead men to become harassers: the relationship between power and sex, personality, the types of women that are targeted, as well as the environment.

“If you’re in an organization that turns a blind eye to claims of harassment or who doesn’t severely punish harassers or inconsistent punishes harassers, that creates a feeling of ‘I can get away with it,’” Stockdale says.

Stockdale also clarifies that women can also be harassers.

These many allegations have caused many to think about whether past experiences they had could constitute as sexual harassment.

IU Professor of Law Deborah Widiss says from an employment law perspective, the key words are “severe” and “pervasive.”

“There is a lot of conduct that happens that I think people perceive to be harassing and is inappropriate that courts have held ‘We don’t think that that’s severe or pervasive enough to count from a legal perspective,’” Widiss says.

Jennifer Drobac is a law professor at the IU McKinney School of Law. She says though there are legal avenues that can be pursued, there are major gaps within the law.

“Indiana has a civil rights law but there’s a provision in it requires that the employer agree in writing to be sued,” Drobac says. “That means there really are no civil rights cases under Indiana law because the Indiana law is absolutely toothless.”

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