A tipping point has been reached by the national conversation on sexual harassment and assault on Capitol Hill as lawmakers have started facing stern consequences for their alleged sexual behavior.
Two Democratic members who were accused of sexual misconduct declared they were resigning from their posts: Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, who retired on Tuesday, and Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, who said he would be resigning from the Senate in a speech on Thursday. A Republican from Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, also announced he will be stepping down. Franks said in a statement that he had spoken with the former members of his staff about replacement just as it was announced by the House Ethics Committee that it would investigate whether it constitutes sexual harassment.
Due to the departure and resignation of these powerful men, in a way, it proves that the stories and accusations of sexual harassment and assault by men and women are confirmed.
“For so long, women who were abused didn’t feel like they could say anything because they thought they’d get fired, they thought nobody would believe them, they thought they’d get trashed or pushed aside,” Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat of Virginia, said. “I think we’ve crossed a Rubicon where people believe they can say stuff and there will be folks who support them.” (http://www.time.com)
The situation came reached its peak when over 24 of Franken’s colleagues which was led by a group of Democratic women, called on him to resign. Also, two women came forward with accusations that Franken touched or tried to kiss them by force. Which prompted many of his colleagues to think it was time for him to go: enough was enough.
“I believe it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn’t acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York wrote in a lengthy Facebook post on Thursday. (http://www.time.com)
But Franken didn’t go without a fight. Although he had apologized to those who accused him of sexual misconduct, he did not do so in his floor speech. “Some of the allegations against me are simply not true,” he said. “Others I remember very differently.” (http://www.time.com)
He also spoke about the irony in the fact that he is leaving the Senate and how Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore who has allegations of sexual misconduct against him will soon join his colleagues on Capitol Hill through his speech.
“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 said on the Senate floor. (http://www.time.com)
It was also reported that Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said that he hoped the Minnesota Democrat’s actions would “help set a higher standard for all parts of our society.” He said, “sexual harassment is always unacceptable.” (http://www.time.com)
But the irony that Franken alluded to was not lost on some of his soon-to-be former colleagues. “I don’t know how you could be a public official in either party and support a nominee that has as many disturbing allegations as the candidate in Alabama has,” said Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat from Pennsylvania. “If he is elected, it’s going to be a fundamental decision: Is he elected and retained in the Senate, or is he not?” (http://www.time.com)
Two Democrats also found themselves avoided by their colleagues amidst sexual harassment accusations and Roy More, Alabama’s Senate candidate received a monetary boost from the Republican National Committee and a recommending tweet from the President. The Democrats had no choice but to speak against their own if they want moral authority over the issue of sexual misconduct.
As Al Franken spoke, some of his colleague’s wiped tears and some hugged him as he made his way out. Many lawmakers refused to view what happened with a biased mind. And if anything has been made clear in the past few weeks, it’s that sexual harassment is a two-sided issue.
“There is no moral high ground on this,” said Sen. Tim Scott, a Republican from South Carolina. “I don’t know that we should try to find a partisan path in the issue. I think that’s counterproductive.” (http://www.time.com)