Cascading effect as women speak out about sexual misconduct

FACES of Hope Victim Center and the Women's and Children's Alliance in Boise talk about the domino effect, and why they feel this is a much-needed change.

BOISE -- NBC's Matt Lauer is the latest in a long line of high-profile men caught up in a cascading effect of women speaking out about sexual misconduct.

From Hollywood to the media to politics, America is witnessing an almost daily barrage of allegations of sexual harassment, assault, and inappropriate behavior.

KTVB spoke with the FACES of Hope Victim Center and the Women's and Children's Alliance (WCA) in Boise about the domino effect, and why they feel this is a much-needed change.

"It did catch up with them and they've been exposed for who they really are," FACES Chief Operating Officer and Ada County Prosecutor's Office special crimes unit chief, Jean Fisher, said.

The catalyst essentially being Harvey Weinstein.

"It absolutely blew the lid off of this," WCA Executive Director, Beatrice Black, said. "The courage it took for that individual - that woman - to speak up just changed everything."

Women are feeling emboldened to step up and say, 'me too' and to share their stories. Many high-profile men facing sexual misconduct allegations in the U.S. right now aren't denying them.

"It tells you that they are sort of serial offenders: they didn't do it just to one person, one time, or in one instance where they thought maybe their advances were consented to or a mutual thing. So I think it's been really important for women," Fisher added.

Those accused continue to face grave consequences and penalties by their employers or companies they work with, as is the case people such as Lauer, CBS News' Charlie Rose, actor Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein.

"This effect of coming forward and more people coming forward and actually seeing companies do something about it I think is really what's made the difference. It's that people are really falling," Fisher said. "It is the atmosphere that the business itself has allowed to happen in many instances."

"If you see that kind of behavior being shut down, if you see somebody losing their job because of that behavior, it's going to give you a much broader sense or much more comfort that if you were to speak up that you're going to be believed," Black said. "I think it's incumbent on organizations to help make that change - to verbalize and say this is not acceptable in our workplace."

A sea change is occurring, but Black says it shouldn't have taken recent events to put it in motion.

"It's a good and a bad thing but i think it took those recognizable names for us to really sit up and pay attention," black "but i think if we believe every woman who suffers harassment today is going to be willing to speak up, i think we're being naiive."

The underlying, systemic problem is power and control over another person, experts say.

"The worst thing that happens in cases of sexual assault and harassment is silence," Fisher added. "The more you speak up and say something and do something about what you're seeing or observing, you don't know how much you're going to be helping somebody else."

FACES says that silence typically happens when someone uses their power to threaten a victim if they speak up: they could threaten a person's professional advancement, job security, safety, home, children, etc., and/or make the victim feel no one will believe them or that the victim "asked for it".

"People should feel more emboldened by what's happening; that, certainly, people are listening and paying attention that this is a real problem, that sexual harassment in the workplace has got to stop and that women have the right to be able to come to work and have all the successes because of who they are professionally, and not who they are personally or by their appearance," Fisher added. "I just would like to encourage women to keep coming forward and bring their story forward and to take their story to their boss, to write it down and let somebody know what has happened to them. It's still difficult."

"The message now is that if you engage in this kind of behavior there are going to be some very serious consequences," Black said.

In referring to Lauer and the other men who have been terminated from positions, Black believes they should lose their job.

"Should anyone who has taken part in this kind of behavior knowingly, willfully lose their job over it and have their career end? I think so, absolutely. Should they be forgiven if they truly want to be forgiven and are sorry? Yeah, they probably should be. But that doesn't change the fact that with the kind of influence they have wielded for as many years as they've wielded it, that they should still have that pedestal to be viewed as a leader," Black told KTVB.

Fisher says she does worry about swift termination and actions based upon allegations.

"I always believe in due process. I think due process is very very important. And I think that people who get wrongly accused in these matters, it's as devastating for them to be wrongly accused, quite frankly, as for women who have felt the net effects of what's happened," Fisher added. "So I do believe in due process and I don't believe you should just be able to make an accusation and then lose your job or position where you've been. And I do worry about that. In the cases we've seen so far though, there isn't anybody really fighting back."

Fisher and Black both hope this movement won't just be a moment in time, but a real time of transformation in this country.

If you need help and want to talk to someone at WCA about sexual or domestic assault or abuse, visit wcaboise.org or call the WCA Domestic Violence Hotline at (208) 343-7025 or Sexual Assault Crisis Hotline at (208) 345-7273.

FACES is located at 417 S 6th Street, Boise, ID 83702. Emergent services are available 24/7 by visiting their facility and non-emergent services are available weekdays from 8 a.m. till 5 p.m. You can call (208) 577-4400 on weekdays to schedule an appointment.

© 2017 KTVB-TV


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