Sexual Harassment is an LGBTQ Issue
The experiences of sexual harassment and abuse described by multiple women in New York Attorney General Leticia James’ report on her office’s investigation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo are deplorable. Cuomo’s departure today is an important step in accountability that will hopefully begin to bring some sense of justice to the women who courageously came forward.
As an LGBTQ organization, we are committed to lifting up and acting in solidarity with survivors and reporters of abuse, and challenging sexism and sex discrimination that fosters that abuse. Many members of the LGBTQ community have been and continue to be impacted by sexual harassment, sex-based discrimination, and sexual assault. These are our issues.
The unfolding of the story around the New York governor’s office has also shown once again that stopping sexual harassment and changing the structures and attitudes that enable it requires more than holding one individual accountable at a time. The Attorney General’s report highlighted not just the governor’s behavior but a culture and workplace environment that encouraged complicity and silence over transparency. That culture manifested in incredibly damaging ways inside the governor’s office, leading to deflection and efforts at retaliation against those bringing harassment claims rather than addressing the concerns brought forward and working toward justice and change.
The public attention on this case presents an opportunity not just for those who perpetuated that culture within the New York governor’s office to reckon with what happened, but for all of us to commit to doing better. The work to transform institutions that allow sexual harassment and discrimination to thrive unchecked is long and hard, without easy, short-term solutions.
It requires listening to, supporting, and centering the experiences of survivors. It requires robust laws and full and fair enforcement of those laws. It requires consistent and sufficient training within institutions and organizations, policies that establish clear paths for reporting, and oversight to ensure those paths are accessible and followed. It requires the will to remake institutional cultures that allow and encourage individuals with the power to ignore, cover-up, or perpetuate discriminatory and harassing behavior.
It also requires a commitment to broader culture change. We need to examine our own misogynistic attitudes and behaviors. We need to understand and address the countless ways those attitudes and behaviors are instilled and reinforced by our culture at large. We also need to create space for people to acknowledge their failures and complicity in broken systems so that they can become part of the solution.
Systemic and cultural change takes time, but we must not delay or ignore the urgency of the work before us. As an organization dedicated to gender equity, racial justice, and full LGBTQ equality, we are committed to working toward the day when all people, including all women, can live and work in a culture that fully respects their humanity.
Suggested resources for people experiencing sexual harassment or assault:
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) sexual harassment resources, including information on how to intervene as a bystander.
RAINN’s resources for LGBTQ survivors:
- National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs: A coalition of programs that document and advocate for victims of anti-LGBT and anti-HIV/AIDS violence/harassment, domestic violence, sexual assault, police misconduct, and other forms of victimization. The site has a list of local anti-violence programs and publications. Hotline: 212.714.1141
- The Trevor Project: Help and suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth. Hotline: 866.488.7386
- LGBT National Hotline: Call center that refers to over 15,000 resources across the country that support LGBTQ individuals. Hotline: 888.843.4564
- FORGE (For Ourselves: Reworking Gender Expression): Home to the Transgender Sexual Violence Project. Provides services and publishes research for transgender persons experiencing violence and their loved ones.