Patterico's Pontifications

2/7/2019

Women’s Advocacy Groups Largely Silent On Sexual Assault Allegation Against Virginia’s Lt. Gov.

Filed under: General — Dana @ 8:02 pm



[guest post by Dana]

It’s been fascinating during this age of #MeToo, #BelieveSurvivors, and #TIMESUP to watch women’s advocacy groups caught between a rock and a hard spot with regard to the allegations of sexual assault made against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of Virginia. I’ve been wondering where the women on the left side of the aisle disappeared to. Considering Democrats unarguably have a monopoly on women in today’s Congress, the silence is surprising. To be fair, freshman representative Jennifer Wexton of Virginia was first to break ranks with her Democratic sisters and voice her support for Vanessa Tyson after the release of her statement. However, she did not call for Fairfax’s resignation. Today Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who found Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation against Brett Kavanaugh disqualifying, also expressed support for Tyson but did not call for Fairfax to resign.

Gillibrand, who didn’t hesitate to condemn Kavanaugh when the allegation was made against him, also led the charge to oust the Sen. Al Franken, citing her zero-tolerance policy stand:

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), the first Democratic senator to call for Franken’s resignation, lost campaign donors over the matter. But she has defended her decision on grounds that a zero-tolerance policy is both morally and politically right and that multiple women had come forward on Franken before she made her declaration.

And yet now with Fairfax, she has declined to call for his ousting. Apparently the definition of zero-tolerance is malleable.

Women’s advocacy groups overall have been silent about the Fairfax scandal. Just one group has called for Fairfax to resign as a result of Tyson’s public statement:

The National Organization for Women (NOW) calls on Justin Fairfax to remove himself from the line of succession by resigning his office.

Dr. Vanessa Tyson has made the brave decision to come forward and reveal in her own words what happened between her and Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. Her story is horrifying, compelling and clear as day – and we believe her.

We believe and support survivors. We always believe and support survivors.

This is more important than who is going to be the next governor of Virginia. This isn’t about politics. It’s about a woman who has experienced sexual assault – a serious crime – at the hands of a powerful man, who is now attacking her character. In order to tear down the systemic and toxic sexism in this country, we must speak out against it.

However premature they might be in assuming Fairfax is guilty, they are at least consistent in their claims to “always believe” alleged survivors.

This afternoon, the Women’s March weighed in but stopped short of calling for Fairfax’s resignation. The Women’s March believed that even before Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations, Kavanaugh was disqualified to sit on the Court. Her allegation only sealed the deal.

So why no calls for Fairfax to resign by those who were quick to call for other lawmakers accused of sexual misconduct to resign simply based on an allegation? Why, politics, of course.

Leading sexual assault advocates say their approach has been driven, in large part, by a desire to respect the wishes of the alleged survivor. But the hesitancy of women’s advocacy groups to jump into one of the central debates of the moment has begun to grate on some who wonder whether things would be different if Fairfax were not a Democrat and a rising star in the party.

“It’s messed up,” said Zerlina Maxwell, a progressive cable news pundit and former staffer on the Hillary Clinton campaign. “It is a hard thing to call for someone to resign. It is a hard thing when somebody who is beloved by the party and who is ideologically similar to you does a bad thing and faces consequences. But if we’re going to be the party that actually lives up to what we say and stand for, there have to be consequences.”

Obviously if Democrats want to be the party that actually lives up to what they say and stand for, then Gov. Northam and Atty. General Herringer, both of whom have wholly admitted to their bad behavior, would have already voluntarily exited stage left.

Prominent advocacy groups for women are citing that ultimate leftwing litmus test, abortion, as their reason for sitting this one out:

But more prominent institutions, like the Democratic National Committee, NARAL, EMILY’s List and the Women’s March, have either avoided the issue or engaged cautiously. A staffer at EMILY’s List said the organization has weighed in on some sexual assault allegations, like those against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, because the people involved were in a position to affect women’s abortion rights, which is their central policy concern. Otherwise, they try to keep their focus only on electing Democratic women.

[…]

Amanda Thayer, a representatives for NARAL, a pro-choice advocacy group, said Thursday that the group found the allegations “deeply disturbing” and were “watching it very closely.”

Unbelievable. So allegations of sexual assault by elected officials only matter to this powerful women’s group if it impacts their bottom line of abortion rights. What a way to value all women. Hey, sister, too bad you may have been sexually assaulted, but your allegation means nothing to us because the elected official you’ve accused can’t help further our cause. Oh, and maybe you better put some ice on that.

Contrast the reactions to the Fairfax allegation with those accused of similar behavior on the right side of the aisle:

The approach stands in contrast to how many of these groups have handed issues of sexual assault in politics in the past. NARAL and the Women’s March were highly critical of then-Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore when he was accused of molesting teenage girls. And they weighed in early and critically on the Kavanaugh allegations. Both groups helped promote an event on September 24 when women wore black, walked out of their offices at 1 pm and chanted “believe survivors” in support of Christine Blasey Ford and the #MeToo movement at large.

Activists insist that the hesitation to act similarly with regards to the Fairfax allegations is not due to political considerations. They note that Tyson had not consented to her name being made public before her story was published by a right wing news site, and that she had called for privacy when she eventually told her own story.

“I believe strongly that survivors should determine when, and how, and in what form they tell their story. The fact that her story appeared on a blog, not driven by her, with her picture on there, that totally goes against any approach that would be survivor centered,” said Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO National Women’s Law Center. “The second thing is, I was especially moved by her letter, including her request that she be able to do what she wants to do in terms of engage in her work and lead a private life.”

This is interesting when one considers that Diane Feinstein claims to have respected Blasey Ford’s request for confidentiality, and yet she, or someone in her office leaked the “confidential” letter:

In July, Palo Alto University psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford wrote a letter to her senator, Dianne Feinstein, detailing a harrowing sexual-assault claim against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. In her letter, Ford requested that Feinstein keep the information “confidential,” writing that she feared the ramifications of speaking out — but also that she felt “guilty and compelled as a citizen about the idea of not saying anything.” Feinstein respected her wishes, keeping both the letter and the accusation private.

Feinstein’s own office said after the breach of confidentiality:

Senator Feinstein was given information about Judge Kavanaugh through a third party. The Senator took these allegations seriously and believed they should be public. However, the woman in question made it clear she did not want this information to be public. It is critical in matters of sexual misconduct to protect the identity of the victim when they wish to remain anonymous, and the senator did so in this case.

M’kay.

Lastly, there is the issue of identity politics. Rather than caution being exercised because it’s just an allegation at this point, the silence you hear is because the accused’s skin color is black. And optics are everything:

One female progressive activist, who asked not to be named, said that the community was also cognizant of racial sensitivities involved in the story.

“There is an issue of how black men, particularly in the south, are treated around issues of assault and harassment,” the activist said. “They don’t want to turn this into an issue of feminists versus black men.”

The utter inconsistencies and abysmal reasoning behind the treatment of politicians accused of sexual misconduct only gives weight to the old adage that it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind. And in this case, that’s an unattractive look.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

27 Responses to “Women’s Advocacy Groups Largely Silent On Sexual Assault Allegation Against Virginia’s Lt. Gov.”

  1. Just. Be. Consistent. It’s like they try to discredit themselves.

    Dana (023079)

  2. I’ve noticed a few politicos on the left saying they support Vanessa Tyson instead of believe her as was almost universal for CB Ford.

    harkin (75c725)

  3. Yes, that too.

    Dana (023079)

  4. Oh well that’s ok then, it looks like thecirginia delegation is rallying behind pickled herring.

    Narciso (c482b7)

  5. the silence you hear is because the accused’s skin color is black

    Clarence Thomas, anyone?

    But notice the scale of values at play here, in which stupid collegiate humor merits harsher treatment than sexual assault.

    Kishnevi (2a9a02)

  6. Just. Be. Consistent. It’s like they try to discredit themselves.

    Situational ethics.

    And really, if “consistency” means always believing one side, or always not believing one side, consistency is not what we should demand.

    Obviously various accusations have a range of credibility, from slam-dunk (the perpetrator brags about it on an open microphone) to absurd (it happened during a party at an unknown location on an unknown date 40 years ago, and all the other people you say were present, including your best friend at the time, deny it).

    So I would say it is the “always believe the accuser” that discredits them, not failing to follow that flawed dictum.

    Dave (1bb933)

  7. I think you’re speaking too soon Dana. E.g.,

    Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala D. Harris on Thursday called for an investigation

    If the evidence is credible, I’m sure more will follow, of course.

    Tillman (61f3c8)

  8. they’ll follow all right. this guy is toast, a sacrifice to the gods of seeing which way the wind blows.

    JRH (fe281f)

  9. Red-faced over blackface. VA State Senate Republican Majority Leader T.K. Norment, Jr., was editor of ’68 VMI yearbook peppered w/racial slurs and images of blackfaced students. But over in Kentucky, it’s Stephen Foster to the rescue, eh, Mitch: ‘the sun shines bright in the ol’Kentucky home; ’tis summer, the darkies are gay…’

    Low blows and Minstrel shows; the South shall rise again!

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  10. he is not a racist republican. remember bill clinton good rapist trump bad rapist. democrat party is fed up with anti-abortion retaliation and is about to give them a post natal abortion in states they control.

    lany (05978b)

  11. Obviously if Democrats want to be the party that actually lives up to what they say and stand for, then Gov. Northam and Atty. General Herringer, both of whom have wholly admitted to their bad behavior, would have already voluntarily exited stage left.

    This assumes that resignation is the appropriate punishment in both cases. I don’t really think that’s the case for reasons I’ve laid out in another comment. Of the 2 i think the governor is worse. He’s seemed unwilling to to admit what he did. the ATG volunteered the info, admitted it was wrong and apologized. For what we’re talking about that seems appropriate.

    Neither party is really good living by their values, but it seems like the Dem’s are trying a lot harder to live by #metoo and #BLM than the GOP is for #familyvalues.

    Time123 (daab2f)

  12. And really, if “consistency” means always believing one side, or always not believing one side, consistency is not what we should demand.

    Context matters.

    It used to be very, very, common for women who claimed sexual assault to be disbelieved in every step of the process. Investigations wouldn’t be run, evidence wouldn’t be collected, and their claims of sexual assault wouldn’t get the same credibility of other crimes. Records of their accusations wouldn’t even be kept.

    So if “believe women” = take their claims seriously and give them the same hearing you would any other alleged crime then I’m in.

    If “believe women” = no need for any process then I’m out.

    I haven’t seen as many lefties claim it’s the second as I’ve seen righties try to characterize it that way as a means to discredit the their political opponents.

    But it’s a big country, i’m sure there are examples to be found, just not what I’m seeing on balance.

    Time123 (36651d)

  13. Mr. Spacey never did mouth rape on anybody and they’ve pretty much destroyed that guy

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  14. “Neither party is really good living by their values, but it seems like the Dem’s are trying a lot harder to live by #metoo and #BLM than the GOP is for #familyvalues.”

    One is the Party of Death with an outstretched hand looking for “gi-me’s” and the other isn’t

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  15. Sorry if this is off topic but…. Wow. Watching Acting AG Whitaker live a bit ago…. He tells Nadler “your five minutes is up”? Stranger than fiction.

    But I have three questions for him.

    1. Why is it AG Whitaker, that you can freely talk about “investigating” CNN’s coverage of Cohen but answering benign Mueller Investigation questions is resisted “because its a current investigation”?

    2. You answered several questions early on…. only after evading them repeatedly. Why exactly is that?

    3. Why is stating that something “may” be covered by executive privilege any different than saying “I will answer whatever I decide I want to answer”?

    noel (e07fb0)

  16. Dave @ 7,

    My point was: do women’s advocacy groups and Gillibrand believe that lawmakers accused of sexual assault should have due process *before* a demand that they be ousted is made? Because with Kavanaugh, the answer was no. With Fairfax, it seems to be yes.

    Dana (023079)

  17. Shifting standards.

    Dana (023079)

  18. Sad but true, Dana. As the saying goes, “That’s different because shut up.”

    I’m all for fairness.

    Simon Jester (4357eb)

  19. They’ll shift back when the next conservative gets accused.

    harkin (75c725)

  20. It’s about power Simon, there is no ‘speaking truth’ when it comes to the left.

    Narciso (d349a5)

  21. Dana, why do you so quickly discount the impact of race on their behavior?

    If you believe (as a lot of democrats do) that Black men are more likely to be accused and believed to be guilty than wouldn’t you be somewhat cautions in making an accusation?

    Honestly i think a position of “I support this accuser and think it should be thoroughly investigated.” Seems consistent with their values.

    Time123 (36651d)

  22. My point was: do women’s advocacy groups and Gillibrand believe that lawmakers accused of sexual assault should have due process *before* a demand that they be ousted is made? Because with Kavanaugh, the answer was no. With Fairfax, it seems to be yes.

    They didn’t demand he be ousted from his existing appointment. They variously demanded that more investigation be done and that he not be promoted to higher office. In some cases democrats were clear that they were withholding judgement until they’d had a chance to hear the accuser. IRRC they didn’t call for Sharpton to step down until a lot of information was out there.

    It’s clear that they more eager to go after political opponents for wrong doing, and quicker to believe in those situations. But that’s not the same thing as a double standard.

    I can also argue that the standard for removal is higher than the standard for promotion.

    Time123 (36651d)

  23. Time123 (36651d) — 2/8/2019 @ 10:06 am

    a position of “I support this accuser and think it should be thoroughly investigated.” Seems consistent with their values.

    It seems to be consistent with what Virginia Lt Gov Justin Fairfax has said:

    https://www.whsv.com/content/news/Fairfax-denies-charges-says-accusers-must-be-given-voice-505422741.html

    “Reading Dr. Tyson’s account is painful. I have never done anything like what she suggests. As I said in my statement this morning, I have nothing to hide. Any review of the circumstances would support my account, because it is the truth. I take this situation very seriously and continue to believe that Dr. Tyson should be treated with respect. But, I cannot agree to a description of events that simply is not true. I support the aims of the MeToo movement and I believe that people should always be heard and the truth should be sought. I wish Dr. Tyson the best as I do our Commonwealth. ”

    Sammy Finkelman (102c75)

  24. 17. Dana (023079) — 2/8/2019 @ 8:55 am

    My point was: do women’s advocacy groups and Gillibrand believe that lawmakers accused of sexual assault should have due process *before* a demand that they be ousted is made? Because with Kavanaugh, the answer was no. With Fairfax, it seems to be yes.

    As far as Gillibrand is concerned, the answer was also no for Al Franken.

    Sammy Finkelman (102c75)

  25. “Hey, sister, too bad you may have been sexually assaulted, but your allegation means nothing to us because the elected official you’ve accused can’t help further our cause. Oh, and maybe you better put some ice on that.”
    this is not new. When one of the women beat up by former NY AG Eric Schneiderman told her story to a friend the friend urged her NOT to report the incident because Schneiderman was “too important” a politician for the women’s movement to loose, the NYTimes reported at the time.
    Disgusting.

    Sam (907519)

  26. noel (e07fb0) — 2/8/2019 @ 8:26 am

    3. Why is stating that something “may” be covered by executive privilege any different than saying “I will answer whatever I decide I want to answer”?

    Because President Trump hasn’t specifically claimed executive privilege (and it belongs to the president, not him.) Answering the question might deprive Trump of the ability to do so. Maybe it does depend upon whether the matter is sensitive.

    Sammy Finkelman (102c75)


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