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Abusing power

Konopelko voices thoughts on recent sexual misconduct allegations


NOTE: This piece was published on on Dec. 4, 2017. Click here to view it online. 


U.S. Sen. Al Franken has placed women’s issues at the top of his agenda for nine years. He wrote a bill guaranteeing emergency contraception on every U.S. military base. He reintroduced legislation to help ensure safe housing for sexual violence victims. Ultimately, he has been a male champion of women’s rights.


But now, people are rightfully turning their backs on the Minnesota-based democratic senator after four women accused him of engaging in physical contact with them without their consent.


Radio anchor Leeann Tweeden was one of these women. She accused him of force-kissing her to “rehearse” their scene for a military show and later groping her breasts. She said she felt “disgusted and violated,” according to TIME Magazine’s coverage.


The allegations are obviously detrimental to Franken’s career. Both parties have agreed on allowing the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate him. But instead of narrowing our focus to the impact on his career, we have to look at the societal issue that his actions represent — a growing degradation of females. Franken’s political prominence shows that anyone can engage in sexual misconduct, regardless of their status or beliefs — even a senator who tirelessly fought for women’s rights. Throughout these past few weeks, sexual assault allegations against well-know, authoritative males have proliferated.  


Sexual misconduct among males in high positions has occurred for a long time. We all remember when Bill Clinton lied under oath, denying that he had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky or when eight women accused former president George H.W. Bush of groping them.


But now, light is finally being shed on the widespread issue and males are finally being held accountable for their abuse of power. Recent events show that we have to put an end to this hidden issue.   


First, pro-life Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania asked a women he was having an affair with to get an abortion when he thought she might be pregnant.


Next, it was the then district attorney and current Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore, who was was accused of sexually assaulting or molesting eight women — of which six said he pursued romantic relationships when they were teenagers.


Then, it was Franken, who released an apology and at least took responsibility. Then, it was Senior Democratic Congressman John Conyers, who was pressured to resign from the House Judiciary Committee over allegations that he had sexually harassed multiple female aides.


Then, just when I thought the number of accused males could not increase any more, a journalist who I had looked up to for years —Matt Lauer — was fired from the Today Show and accused of sexually harassing a female NBC staffer during the Sochi Winter Games as well as multiple others. How could a broadcaster who covered sexual assault on a daily basis be accused?  


The fact that people like Franken, Clinton, Bush and Lauer — people who I once looked up to — were accused of committing actions that entirely degraded women and got away with it is atrocious. I am truly disappointed and so are many other people.  


Following over 60 sexual harassment allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein, #MeToo went viral on social media. Thousands of people shared their experiences with sexual assault and harassment online. Although the hashtag showed us the magnitude of the issue and instigated awareness, it did not solve the problem. Further initiative should be taken.


Firstly, we have to realize that the problem does not lie in the victims, but in the assaulters. According to Southern Connecticut State University, boys often say things like “She asked for it,” and “Boys will be boys.” Comments like this could not be more wrong. A woman does not ask to be assaulted. Why would any female want to be degraded? A male’s gender does not make him any more powerful than a woman. Although it is perceived that way in our society, we were all created equal and women should be treated as such.


Males think that just because they have power and money — such as Franken, who has a net worth of $9 million — they have the right to be sexual assaulters. They think they have the right to disrespect another human being.


Simply put, males have to keep their hands to themselves and respect their space. Just because a woman is a different gender does not mean there is some type of tag on her saying she can be assaulted.  


Sexual assault is a nonpartisan issue and both sides of the political spectrum should create legislation to prevent and end it.


It took 11 years for Tweeden to share her story. If sexual assault continues for another 11 years, then we will have a society where males’ abuse of power is as normal as waking up each morning.


If President Donald J. Trump, the commander-in-chief of our very own country, was accused of sexual misconduct a dozen times and if congressmen who pushed legislation addressing sexual assault, as well as a broadcaster who covered sexual assault were also accused, then who will be accused next?

Photo Courtesy of | Creative Commons

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