Herman Cain and the Problem of Serial Harassers

What is it that turns a person into a serial predator? Is there something about power that makes some men think they can take whatever they want, or are there men who just don't recognize women as human? Make no mistake: Real sexual harassment is predation. My rule has long been that if I hear one allegation, I wait to hear the evidence—might be true, might be false. If I hear two serious allegations in which women took the risk of bringing the charge publicly, I assume there are more. Someone smart at the Associated Press must know that rule, because their reporters have turned up a third allegation of sexual harassment against Herman Cain: 

A third woman considered filing a workplace complaint against Herman Cain over what she deemed aggressive and unwanted behavior when she and Cain, now a Republican presidential candidate, worked together during the late 1990s, the woman told The Associated Press on Wednesday. She said the behavior included a private invitation to his corporate apartment.

The woman said he made sexually suggestive remarks or gestures about the same time that two co-workers had settled separate harassment complaints against Cain, who was then the head of the National Restaurant Association....

She spoke only on condition of anonymity, saying she feared losing her current job and the possibility of damage to her reputation. [emphasis mine] 

That last is the part that breaks my heart: "damage to her reputation." Sexual harassment, sexual assault, and the entire range of gendered harms are like poisoned darts. The first sting you feel is the harm itself; the worse and more lasting damage comes from the "she's a slut" campaign against you if you try to take any action against your harasser. But unless someone is willing to take that poison and speak up, almost any harasser will keep doing what he's doing to other women. And as we discussed last week, sexual harassment is a civil action (as opposed to an individual's problem or a criminal charge) because it's an employer's duty to guard its employees' civil rights. When a harasser is loose in the workplace, women are at an unfair disadvantage in trying to earn a living.


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