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Addressing Sexual Harassment And Assault: Beyond O’Reilly Outrage

The following post, written by The Rev. Robert A. Franek, is a part of Politicus Policy Discussion, in which writers draw connections between real lives and public policy.

Following President Obama’s declaration last year, Donald Trump declared April again to be National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention month.

As Sarah Jones reported Donald Trump was unable to live up to his own proclamation as he came to the quick defense of Fox News host Bill O’Reilly who has reportedly settled multiple claims of sexual harassment.

The news of O’Reilly’s multimillion dollar settlements quickly led to dozens of companies pulling their ads from his program and pressure was put on some companies that did not immediately revoke their advertising.

It has also come to light that Fox News while publicly unwilling to call out Trump’s own sexual harassment has been using the Access Hollywood tape in their own sexual assault awareness and prevention training.

While there has been much outrage directed at horrific treatment of Bill O’Reilly in particular and the workplace culture of enablement at Fox News in general, it must be remembered that sexual harassment and assault are systemic issues in many workplaces.

Sarah Jones called attention to this massive epidemic tweeting:

It is not at all surprising that Donald Trump an admitted sexual assaulter would come to the defense of Bill O’Reilly. And the effects of having an admitted sexual assaulter hold the highest elected office in the country cannot be overlooked or understated. Women are traumatized again and again by this reality and sexual abusers feel permission because one got elected president.

Addressing these realities must go beyond outrage at the O’Reilly’s and Trump’s of the world. We must look at the systemic misogyny and sexism in every workplace, not only the horrors made public in one television company.

We must shine a light in every dark corner where abuse happens. We must create a culture in and beyond the workplace where women and men feel safe and are not subject to any form of harassment or abuse.

We cannot only cry out on Twitter and Facebook at the celebrity bullies who capture the media’s attention, but we must also be vigilant in our own workplaces, schools, places of worship, and community centers for sexual harassment and assault.

Working towards prevention and creating a culture absent of sexual harassment and abuse must also include teaching children, youth, and young adults in age-appropriate ways about rape culture and the many ways it is manifested from victim blaming to consent.

Despite Donald Trump’s failure to keep his own decree, we can still use it and the media hype around Bill O’Reilly and Fox News to spark discussions in our homes and workplaces, in our schools and community centers focusing on what we can do to address sexual harassment and assault and work for its prevention.

We must address the epidemic sexual harassment and abuse in every part of our society for the well-being and safety of all people. No one deserves harassment or abuse, ever. This month is an opportunity to focus attention and create more awareness of the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault in our society. Let’s not miss this occasion for conversation and action towards the prevention of sexual harassment and assault. For if not now, when?

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