We’re at a moment when accusers are believed 100 percent and everyone knows: Any questioning of accusers is viewed as slut shaming. We’re also at a moment where everyone is attempting to out-outrage each other. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY), a Democrat of Long Island, was a former prosecutor has called for Rep. John Conyers to resign over allegations reported on in Buzzfeed related to a monetary settlement as a means of dealing with sexual harassment allegations against the 88 year old Dean of the House. One would think that Rep. Rice, as a former prosecutor, would understand the standard of due process when serious allegations are made whether via the press or formally to law enforcement officials.
In the case of John Conyers, the seventh longest serving House member in U.S. history, the man who employed Rosa Parks, fought apartheid and was endorsed by Dr. Martin Luther King and President Obama, being under fire for allegations of sexual harassment is complicated by current politics within the House Caucus, his age, and changing cultural attitudes.
The allegations against Conyers, said Rep. Kathleen Rice of Long Island, whose only been in Congress since 2015, are “as credible as they are repulsive. The women who reported this behavior suffered serious professional repercussions for doing so, which is exactly why so many victims of sexual harassment and assault decide not to step forward. If men who engage in this behavior suffered real repercussions, more victims would speak up — and maybe other men would decide to act like decent, civilized adults and not prey on women who work for and trust and admire them.”
How Rep. Rice can confirm any of the above underlying facts is unknown, her bio reveals she was never employed in Conyers’ office. One thing Rice can confirm is that “guilty until proven innocent” is the standard when it comes to sexual harassment. Sexual harassment may be the only misconduct where this is the case.
There is no doubt that the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious one. In a workplace where men typically control who gets the jobs, opportunities, and money, the issue is finally gaining the attention it should have always had. As women take more positions of power and find more of a voice in the halls of power the issue of sexual harassment is finally being confronted.
But should allegations involving sexual harassment be dealt with outside of the normal procedures of due process? In the House, that process, flawed though it may be, includes the House Ethics Committee investigating alleged misconduct. Interestingly, Rep. Rice is speaking as if the House Ethics Committee should be out of the process as well, saying that accountability is “not real. Someone give Miss. Rice Charlie Rangel’s phone number. Meanwhile on the Senate side, Sen. Al Franken is headed for a Senate Ethics Committee Investigation days after he was accused by two women of misconduct. Sen. Franken has apologized publicly twice. He has also had the support of many women who have worked with him over the years.
“You can’t jump to conclusions with these types of things. For all I know, all of this could be made up,” House Assistant Leader Jim Clyburn (D-SC) told the New York Times this week.
Or, for all we know they could be real. Isn’t that what investigations are for?