In the Wake of Taylor Swift’s Trial, Sexual Assault Hotline Sees a Surge in Calls
Here I go again. I’m going to get myself in trouble.
First, let me say, way to go Taylor! I think it is great that she stood up for herself and did not put up with this bullcrap. Also, let me say to the radio DJ that thought it was ok to reach up her dress and grope her butt, “dude what the hell were you thinking? That is not cool”. I would even go so far as to say if Taylor had been my daughter and I saw this, the DJ would have been picking himself off the floor with some missing teeth. This is a clear case of sexual harassment and should not be tolerated in any way.
OK, here is the part where I am walking on dangerous ground. As I said above I agree that the Taylor Swift case appears to be clear cut. However, when I read the definition of sexual assault by the U.S. Department of Justice “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” I have questions. This definition is not new, I remember going through harassment training as a manager/executive at a few companies and they all told us of this definition (by the way all mangers had to go through it, I wasn’t singled out). I had concerns then and I have concerns now. This definition seems really vague. Let me give you a few scenarios and you tell me if they are sexual harassment.
- A guy and girl on a first date, he thinks things are going well and leans in to kiss her. He was wrong and she did not want to be kissed. Did he just sexually harass her?
- A guy goes to a party he walks in the door and is greeted by hugs from many guests. He sees a girl he knows, but not well and gives her a hug. She does not want to be hugged. Did he just sexually harass her?
- A guy in a bar sees a very good-looking waitress that he does not know and when she bends down to give him a drink he kisses her. Did he just sexually harass her?
- A guy is at work and is told by a female coworker that she is pregnant, he is happy for her and gives her a hug. But he has been told by her before that she is not comfortable hugging people in the office. Did he just sexually harass her?
Here are my answers to these scenarios: 1) No, 2) No, 3) Yes, 4) Yes
Scenario 1 & 3 both involve an unwanted kiss; but in scenario 1 the circumstances were such that a kiss attempt is reasonable and somewhat expected. Where as in scenario 3 that is not the case. Let me be clear, if in scenario 1 the guy came back in for another kiss after he had been pushed off or told NO this would be a completely different story. It most definitely would rise to the level of sexual harassment.
Scenario 2 & 4 both involve an unwanted hug again in scenario 2 the circumstances of the hug are such that it is not unreasonable to expect he would hug her. However, in scenario 4, it is also not an unreasonable response to hug someone in congratulations for a pregnancy usually. The fact that he has been told by her before that she does not like it makes the act harassment.
My point is the that the U.S. Justice Department’s definition of sexual harassment is vague and open to a lot of interpretation. It seems to me that this act is another case of “I know it when I see it.” For those of you not familiar with this phrase as it applies to the law; the phrase was used in 1964 by United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart to describe his threshold test for obscenity and pornography. He stated, “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it.” This standard can be easily seen as any parent can attest. Just about every parent I know has some cute photo of their child naked. However, if a pedophile was caught with exactly the same photo it would be child porn. It is all dependent on the circumstances around the event. Hence, we know it when we see it.
All of that being said, I am glad that Taylor Swift won her lawsuit. I think that anyone who saw that appalling behavior by the DJ should have done something. If it had been my daughter, I would have knocked the bastard out (I probably would have had to tear my daughter off him first…). If you believe you have been sexual harassed or assaulted, please report it. Stand up for yourself! My whole intent in writing this was by no means to keep any women who feels she has been victimized from reporting it. I am just trying to give you something to think about, things are rarely as cut a dry as the U.S. Justice Departments definition sexual harassment would indicate.
But, those are just my thoughts.
I would love to hear yours.
Taylor Swift recently made headlines when she successfully sued a former radio DJ for $1 after he groped her during a 2013 fan meet-and-greet before a show in Colorado. And the aftermath of the trial shows that the pop star is having a special impact on other sexual assault survivors.