Following a year when a man who bragged on tape about sexual assault and “grab[bing] her by the pussy” became the President of the United States, it seemed like sexual harassment would not be taken seriously in 2017. However, these past weeks have shown just how much the media has changed the story from supporting the perpetrator and questioning the survivor, to believing the survivor and calling for a change. Yesterday, Democratic Senator Al Franken of Minnesota resigned following weeks of women coming forth with stories of being inappropriately touched and groped by him.
The dishonorable end to Franken’s senatorial career stems from his own repulsive behaviour, which spans over a decade. In November, a woman stated that Franken - not a Senator at the time - badgered her into an unwanted kiss and groped her while she slept. From then, more women came forth with allegations that Franken had inappropriately touched them. These stories include those of morning news anchor Leeann Tweeden, who posted on radio station KABC’s website that Franken forcibly kissed and groped her during a USO tour in 2006; a former Democratic congressional aide who said that Franken tried to kiss her forcibly; and Army veteran Stephanie Kemplin, who accused Franken of groping her and touching her breast in a USO tour during the Iraq War. The list goes on and, while each story is different, there is one common factor: Franken did not have consent to engage in any sort of sexual conduct with these women.
Once these women went public with their stories, there began a shift on Capitol Hill. Thirty-two Democratic senators - 13 female and 19 male - called for Franken’s resignation.
Announcing his resignation on the Senate floor, Franken did not issue an apology and instead stated that “some” of the allegations against him weren’t true.
"I am announcing that in the coming weeks I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate,”
While his speech did not include an apology, he did call out President Donald Trump and Senatorial candidate Roy Moore (R-AL), who has gained notoriety for allegations of sexual misconduct and pedophilia:
"I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party,"
Franken had the opportunity to speak publicly (which he did for 12 minutes) and instead of apologizing and trying to make amends, he used the time to call out others and refute the allegations. Yes, individuals in politics should be held to a higher standard, but asking individuals to not sexually harass people is by no means a high bar to meet.
The call for Franken’s resignation from the public and his fellow senators should be taken as a sign. A sign that we will not accept the unacceptable anymore and that we will not be afraid of the “power” so many have used to take advantage of others. This is a turning point, a step in the right direction towards living in a consent-based culture instead of victim-blaming, and towards seeing all perpetrators punished for the harm they cause others.