SAN DIEGO, December 7, 2011 – Allegations by Atlanta woman Ginger White against Presidential candidate Herman Cain that she had a 13-year extramarital affair with him finally derailed the Cain Train after a rough few weeks. His bid to become President of the United States is over, whether the allegations are true or not.
This is incredibly hypocritical.
As with most of the family law cases I handle, there is probably some sort of relationship here. We may never know where the truth lies. But adultery doesn’t automatically disqualify anyone to become President. (Example: Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy, Thomas Jefferson).
Society is two-faced to judge public figures so harshly when we are imperfect ourselves. Statistics put the number of Americans who have had extramarital affairs at anywhere between 20 and 60 percent, depending on gender, age, education and socioeconomic status.
Presidential candidates should be judged on their ability to lead this country, not on their faithfulness as a husband or as a wife.
Herman Cain should have been disqualified to be President if he sexually harassed women in the workplace. Yet voters seemed easily able to brush aside this issue. This kind of thinking is precisely why sexual harassment remains largely an unsolved problem.
Anyone who would take advantage of staff has extremely poor judgment, a disregard for the individual, and a completely skewed sense of right and wrong, and isn’t qualified to run for President of the United States.
We weren’t willing to let Herman Cain off the hook for a consensual act. But voters were willing to give him a pass despite reports of acts against a woman’s will, acts of force or coercion. The tipping point should have been the harassment, not the affair.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received more than 11,000 sexual harassment complaints in 2010. This has dropped from 12,025 in 2006, and experts say complaints have declined in the last decade. Yet the fact this many incidents are still reported should outrage everyone reading this.
- Men filed over fifteen percent of the charges.
- Nearly two-thirds of college students say they have been sexually harassed. (American Association of University Women, 2005).
- Women are more likely to be the target of sexual jokes, comments or gestures, while men are more likely to be called gay or a homophobic name (AAUW).
- Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender (GLBT) are more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to be sexually harassed.
We don’t have accurate statistics on the number of unreported cases of sexual harassment, just like we don’t have stats on the number of unreported sexual assaults or rapes. But what we do know is that on average, women experience seven incidents of domestic violence before they report one.
Sexual harassment is not necessarily domestic violence or rape, but it is an act involving unwanted behavior, coercion, or force. In this context, it is reprehensible that Herman Cain’s attorney Lin Wood said publicly that any other accuser should “think twice” before coming forward.
This is without a doubt a not so subtle message that it is just way more trouble than it’s worth for victims to report harassment or abuse in general. Few of us would disagree. A victim can lose their job, their reputation, their friends and family, while the abuser escapes any real punishment. Settlements are made and sealed, the abuser carries on and the victim is out in the cold, ostracized or unemployed.
Why should anyone express surprise that Herman Cain’s accusers didn’t come forward sooner? These women like most women know the sort of treatment they would face if they did so. Sure enough, they were called liars and worse, accused of wanting a payout or their 15 minutes of fame. Ridiculous.
The real and lasting damage isn’t to Herman Cain. It is the damage done by actively reinforcing the notion that future victims should not come forward.
Women in particular are conditioned to be pleasers. In the workplace, they don’t want to get a reputation as a complainer or a whiner. So they just suck it up, and hope it will go away.
Sadly other women aid in the conspiracy of silence, because they don’t talk about it. This is exactly the same dynamic that conditions women to stay quiet about the first signs of domestic abuse in their personal lives. Then they become used to it, learn to live with it. The first time they are hurt, it’s a mistake. The second time, well he didn’t mean it. The third time, fourth time, fifth time…
Now that the public’s attention has been focused on the Cain situation, we have a chance to educate people anew about the issue of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment continues to happen because we aren’t putting our collective foot down as a society. Let’s do something about it. Denying Herman Cain the chance to run for President is a good first step.
Myra Chack Fleischer founded Fleischer & Associates in 2001 and serves as Lead Counsel with a focus on divorce, property, custody and support, settlement agreements, mediation, asset division and family law appeals. Read more Legally Speaking in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Fleischer & Associates on Facebook and on Twitter @LawyerMyra
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