I cheered to myself this morning when I heard that the jury had awarded Anucha Brown Sanders $10 million dollars in her sexual harassment suit against Isaiah Thomas and Madison Square Garden. In her press conference yesterday she said something like, "I brought the suit for all working women."
I was struck by the irony that this suit was settled the same week that Clarence Thomas is back in the news, saying that Anita Hill's description of his illegal sexualized behavior was false.
Like countless other women, I have been sexually harassed in the workplace and lost my job because of it. It happened more than 30 years ago when I was fired from a teaching assistant position because I said no to sex with the professor. Except in 1975, people didn't talk about sexual harassment, instead teaching young women as one person I complained to said, "stuff like that happens to women. Look for another position. No one will believe you anyway."
I didn't tell anyone else. Sixteen years later, during the Clarence hearings, people said, "She must be lying. Otherwise she would have complained about it earlier."
Except we didn't -- out of fear, out of shame, out of believing that it was just something that sometimes happened to women.
Sexual harassment is now illegal in the workplace, and women and men today know better than to make degrading sexual statements or unwelcome sexual advances...that after the first "no", all requests should cease.
Well, not all men and women. Isaiah Thomas and James Dolan who fired Ms. Brown Sanders should have known better. May they serve as a reminder to us all.
-Rev. Debra Haffner
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