The US News
By Sammie Moshenberg
Sexual assault and harassment is big news here in the US, including in the Sports section of the newspaper! In October, we marked the 20th anniversary of the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings in the US Senate. Anita Hill who took a great personal risk by going public with her humiliating story of sexual harassment by her boss, Clarence Thomas, who had been nominated for a life-time seat on the United States Supreme Court. Although her story did not move the US Senate sufficiently to defeat Thomas’ nomination, it did inspire a nationwide discussion on sexual harassment at work and probably gave other women the courage to confront their workplace abuse.
Recently, workplace harassment has been in the news again as Herman Cain, a contender for the Republican nomination for US President, was accused by several women of sexual harassment. Once again, a man in the spotlight publicly denied the accusations, belittling and lashing out at the women who shared their stories.
Finally, Joe Paterno, the revered coach of one of the best college football teams in the country, Pennsylvania State University, lost his job because he did nothing to stop one of his staff members’ from alleged child sexual abuse. Despite eye witnesses and police investigations of repeated and horrifying abuse by Coach Sandusky who reported to Paterno, nothing was ever done to discipline Sandusky or get justice for his young victims. While it is true that many people are condemning the alleged crimes and the cover-up, there are many others who are angry that their beloved Coach Paterno has lost his job!
These stories are not only getting newspaper and TV coverage, but they are generating conversation far and wide. On the one hand, it is troubling that in all three cases there are people who are angry at the victims who have come forward, disparaging their stories and defending the powerful men who have been accused. On the other hand, the news has raised awareness of the persistence of sexual harassment and abuse. Hopefully this awareness and resolve to tackle the problem won’t be just tomorrow’s big story!
Sammie Moshenberg works for a women’s organization in the United States and has lived on and off in Cape Town for 16 years. She and her husband are proud supporters of the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust