Stop Sexual Harassment in Albany
by William B. Licata, Esq.
I love American politics. Unfortunately, it may be degenerating into a love-loathe proposition as of late regarding Vito Lopez’s sexual molestation and harassment of numerous staffers and the subsequent gag orders placed on the victims by Sheldon Silver. The consequence of these actions was that ultimately more staffers were harassed and molested in the future, with the sexual predator not stopped or brought to justice.
Harper Lee in To Kill A Mockingbird, a book about rape, racial prejudice and the cover up by an all white male jury states, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view [...] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” I am 46 years old so it is a rather remote possibility that some Assemblyman or woman would want to shove their hand onto my sensitive parts. If they did I would be inclined to break their arm. I presume that is what young women staffers would have felt like doing when the unwanted advances of a serial sexual predator were visited upon them. Why is that so hard for a regular Assemblymember from the Democratic Conference or even the Governor to understand? It’s my body and who I choose to welcome into my personal space is not the subject of a political cost benefit analysis or loss or gain of prestige or power.
I try not to look at this as a: staffer/Assembly-person issue, or a male/female issue, or a black/white issue—no, this is rather a human rights issue. The late President Kennedy said, “The rights of everyman are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.” Rights of these young women are being threatened. Surely, whether you are the leader of the Assembly Minority Caucus or the Women’s Caucus you would agree that the issue isn’t whether it is a race or female issue, which should make one outraged, but rather that this conduct is happening to anyone. To compartmentalize and say if the Speaker conducted himself on an issue germane to race or if it happened to a member of the Black-Puertorican caucus then the Speaker would have been long gone flatly misses the mark. The human rights violation happened to someone and that is reason enough to take action whatever caucus you belong to.
Two of my law professors, Dr. Allan Freeman and Betty Mensch, once wrote about black men, women and children being attacked during the 60’s for standing up for their rights that, “[They] were vindicating their basic constitutional rights, and thereby vindicating their own belief in human dignity.” It looks like these women who were victimized will now have to rely on the courts to protect their dignity because a Governor with three daughters passes the buck to a legislature. Assembly persons with committee assignments or chairmanships are afraid of economic bullying by the Speaker and caucus leaders simply don’t stand in the shoes of the victims.
Yes, I love American politics, but today it’s feeling a lot more like loathe.
- William B. Licata, Esq., Buffalo
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