Harold Ford is going to fight. Good.
This mob mentality has got to stop.
I have personally been on both sides of the Al Franken debate. When I worked on Capitol Hill and later as a lobbyist, I experienced all the behaviors Al Franken stands accused of, if not worse, on a regular basis. Was it ideal? No. Was it traumatic? No, it was not. And I certainly wouldn’t expect anyone to lose their jobs over it.
I have also survived violent and sustained assault and sexual abuse at the hands of a domestic partner, who used threats of long term retaliation, as well as the undeniable truth that I would not be found credible, to keep me a prisoner, and keep me silent. It worked, for far too long.
There should be no conflation of the two scenarios.
False allegations of sexual assault are rare, occurring at the same rate as any other crime. But in politics, false allegations are currency. To deny this is naive and disingenuous. By playing judge, jury and executioner, Gillibrand and her hysterical mob (yeah, I said it) have accomplished nothing beyond handing a loaded weapon to the worst elements of the other side. Empowering the enemy in the War on Women is inexcusable and should not be condoned.
The backlash is building. Men everywhere are terrified than minor encounters from a different time, a different life, will come back to haunt them, while allowing no recourse to defend themselves. After what happened to Franken, no one is safe from baseless, unexamined charges, and many men have decided to avoid being alone with ANY women. And this attitude, this blowback, is detrimental to women too.
Al Franken chose to respect the anonymous women who came forward, acknowledging how his actions might have affected them. He apologized, because that’s what you do when someone says you’ve wronged them. He never admitted to anything. His accuser never said he touched her in that picture — her own words were “as if” — but the outrage took on a life of its own. Women everywhere insisted he had confessed and demanded that his head should roll. If Franken had denied it and not apologized, not shown deference and respect for the women who came forward, he would likely still have his job, and his name would be cleared by an investigation.
My abuser, like Trump, chose to brazen it out and deny everything, no matter how many incredible lies he had to tell. (In one version, I faked injuries to “frame” him.) And as with Trump, it worked. To this day he maintains that I brought it on myself and he did nothing wrong. He has suffered no consequences, not legal, not social, not professional. Like many victims, all of the fallout has fallen on me.
Gillibrand has made it clear that latter approach is far preferable, that it’s better to stonewall, deny, and smear the silence breakers instead of expressing empathy and acknowledging accountability. This makes women everywhere less likely to be believed, and gives cover to men who refuse to take responsibility for their actions.
Gillibrand once had a bright future, but now, like Franken, her name will forever be associated with a witch hunt that backfired on the very people who led it.
I welcome this new paradigm where women are given the benefit of the doubt and not dismissed out of hand as vengeful drama queens. I’m tired of others controlling my narrative, and I’m grateful for this new environment that allows me to finally take ownership of my own story.
I’ve told very few people what happened to me, because I’m free now and it doesn’t matter anymore. My bones have knit, my psyche has mended, my identity finally reclaimed. Friends from my old life might not believe me, but they can think what they want, because in my new life I’m surrounded by wonderfully supportive friends who would have.
Like many women also speaking up, I resent that minor indignities such as those Franken stands accused of have been elevated and now overshadow the violence and retaliation suffered by real victims. The sacrifice of Al Franken has done real damage to to the credibility and sustainability of the burgeoning #MeToo movement. That’s a real tragedy.
Read my previous essay on the subject:
Sometimes It’s Just Bad Behavior
What if we said “Listen to Women” instead of “Believe Women”? Allegations should be investigated like any other crime.
P.S. Someone tell Kirsten Gillibrand that we will never have the “moral high ground” as long as people like her keep relitigating the 90’s. Donald Trump has introduced doubt to a new generation who did not live through the travesty of impeachment, and Gillibrand is complicit. Those of us who were there understand that Ken Starr left no stone unturned. If it’s not in the report, it wasn’t remotely credible.