April 2018 WNDC Holds a Forum on Sexual Harrassment

April 2018 WNDC Holds a Forum on Sexual Harrassment

WNDC Holds a Forum on Sexual Harassment with Democratic Representative Jackie Speier

Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Emily Martin of the National Woman’s Law Center (NWLC) are on the front lines of the battle for survivor justice. The WNDC’s March 15 event inspired our activist members with a talk on the history, context, and specifics of the current transformational change.

Rep. Speier has led the fight to restructure the process for those sexually harassed in Congress. Emily Martin serves as the Vice President for Education and Workplace Justice at the NWLC, which administers the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund. Audience members included Dr. Bernice “Bunny” Sandler, known as the godmother of Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in education, and the former president of both the Sewall-Belmont House and the DC Rape Crisis Center, Marty Langelan.

Rep. Speier has taken the lead on protecting women on college campuses and in the military, working alongside Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. She led the passage of a resolution for mandatory Congressional sexual harassment training, and the House vote to approve the transformational Congressional Accountability Act. It now needs to pass the Senate.

Rep. Speier reminded her audience that progress has been a long time and many people in the making. Birthday celebrant (March 15) Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought for equal pay and against workplace discrimination for decades, before becoming a Supreme Court Justice. Now we have what Rep. Speier calls the “Year of the Amazon Women” with Oprah Winfrey declaring “a new day is on the horizon” at the Golden Globes, and Janelle Monáe announcing at the Grammy’s, “We come in peace but we mean business … and to those who would dare try and silence us, we offer you two words: ‘Time’s up.’”

Rep. Speier also challenged us to the work ahead. We are facing, she said, a roll back of Title IX guidance issued under President Obama to ensure responsive university action to sexual harassment and assault. But new guidance released under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos last year allows them to use a lower standard of evidence employed primarily for criminal cases, in which a finding of guilt results in criminal penalties, e.g., prison time. It permits giving the accused, but not the victim, appeal rights. It allows requiring mandatory mediation. Even worse, it allows permitting the accused to cross examine the victim, even in cases of violent assault. This would have a “chilling effect” on victims which would make schools more unsafe. States, schools, and students must act to keep protections, Speier and Martin urged.

–Veena Trehan, Chair, Task Force on Global Women