There Is A Huge Difference Between Sexual Harassment And Consensual Relationships

Dear Editor,

I read the letter by Anne Burke, of Biloxi/Water Valley, with great interest and much frustration.

Your letter, Ms. Burke, is a slap in the face to victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment, which have both been common problems since workplaces were invented. If you, the writer of this incredibly tone deaf and hateful letter, have been working 50 years, I’m sure you’ve seen sexual harassment, and maybe even experienced it.

There is no reason to lump victims in with consensual sexual relationships that may happen in workplaces or elsewhere. There is nothing voluntary about sexual assault or sexual harassment. That is what separates these two very different scenarios – consent. 

Can we be clear about that? If there is no consent, it is wrong, no matter your ideological persuasion—Feminist, Meninst, which is a thing, Republican, Democrat, Bull Moose or Jehovah’s Witness.

There is nothing voluntary about being pressured to have sex to keep your job, stay out of trouble, or advance your career. There is nothing voluntary about being groped, or talked to lewdly. This is not a willful act. This is a predicament many women, and some men, find themselves in every day and they come away from these situations with trauma that lasts years. They can lose their jobs or face constant threats from the person who put them in this horrible predicament. They can find themselves the victim of lies, rumors and innuendo, and have their professional reputations ruined.

Most of these victims never come forward, much less file complaints. They suffer in silence for years, only telling maybe their closest friend their story. Where is your compassion? Where is your empathy? 

I hope that you, Ms. Burke, and other readers will use this as an opportunity to learn and open up conversations and dialogue about this very real issue. It is up to all of us, men and women, to speak out against sexual harassment and sexual assault when confronted with it. I ask you all to stand up against these predatory acts and offer your comfort and support to those who have fallen victim to them. 

Catherine Robinson McLeod

Wagner Street

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