During the feminist movement of the 1960’s, women began to enter the workforce in great numbers. Up until that time, most women stayed at home to raise their children. Only a few had previously sought jobs outside the home.

Since that shift in the makeup of the workforce population, women and men have tried to find a way to co-exist on the job.

Some days it works better than others because there is an ugly side of men and women working together that has seen a lot of publicity in recent years.

The reality is sexual harassment is everywhere and across the spectrum of the work environment. It involves co-workers, supervisors, customers and clients.

Sexual harassment occurs when people become targets of unwanted sexual comments, sexual gestures or sextual actions because of their gender.

Unwanted sexual attention often includes making suggestive comments about a person’s body or their looks in general. It can also include “accidental” touching, such as brushing up against another person. Grabbing, groping or unwanted hugs and kisses are not appropriate either.

It is not always men who commit acts of harassment. Women are also capable of and do commit sexual harassment.

The United States Unemployment Commission estimates three-quarters of all workplace harassment goes unreported. Experts believe this is because employees have a fear of not being believed or of being retaliated against.

As a teenager in the 70’s, I remember coming to work and finding sexually explicit photos had been put inside my desk drawers. Some of my male co-workers got a real kick out of standing back and watching my reaction when I sat down at my desk.

Being young and inexperienced, I had no idea what to do about what was happening. Back then, there was no official complaint department.

I wish I could go back in time and tell that girl to speak up. Loudly!

The act of sexual harassment often causes pain and suffering to its victims. It is not only offensive and embarrassing, but also frightening.  I know I have never forgotten what it felt like.

Since anyone with a device connected to the internet can find out the definition of sexual harassment, it is incomprehensible when another influential politician is caught committing such acts.

Over the past few years, we have seen the rise and fall of several well-known faces over this type of behavior. And yet, it keeps happening.

The most recent case involves Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York.

Many will recall his daily pandemic briefings and the praise he received for his kind, gentle approach to making sure we were informed.

Hiding behind that façade was allegedly a hound dog of a predator.

New York State Attorney General, Letitia James, recently released a report detailing the findings of an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment by Cuomo.

James’ report stated Cuomo “sexually harassed current and former state employees in violation of federal and state laws.”

In the report, which included 179 interviews, eleven women alleged harassment by the governor.

Charlotte Bennett said Cuomo told her during the pandemic he was “lonely” and “wanted to be touched.”

Lindsey Boylan said Cuomo asked her to play strip poker and psychically touched her on her waist, legs and back.

Virginia Limmalis said Cuomo “ran his fingers across her chest, pressing down on each letter of the logo on her shirt.”

Ana Lewis said the governor referred to her as “sweetheart” and “darling”, kissed her on the cheek and held her hands.

Last week, Andrew Cuomo, who was facing an impeachment inquiry, resigned and says he will leave his office in fourteen days. Cuomo apologized to his accusers but made it clear that he did not think he had done anything to warrant his removal from office.

In his statement Cuomo admitted that he does “hug and kiss people casually.” Cuomo said, “in my mind, I’ve never crossed the line with anyone, but I didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn.”

The line has not moved. It is the same red line that you want men who interact with your daughters to see.  It is the one that says if you and others like you would simply keep your hands and your comments to yourself, there would be no misunderstanding.

I know this guy grew up in New York and did not have a southern mama to teach him to respect women but come on!

The lesson is simple. There is a presumed etiquette about invading another person’s space. As part of human society, women and men alike have the right to decide who gets to touch their bodies.

Permission is required for such liberties. If it is not granted, then proceeding is illegal by law.  

Anita McGill is a former publisher of The Sentinel. She can be reached by email at anitamcgill99@gmail.com.

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