Over the past two months, more and more victims of sexual harassment and assault have come forward to identify their perpetrators. The growing list of abusers has swelled to include many prominent people, from Matt Lauer to Louis C.K., and these individuals are finally facing the consequences for years of abuse.
Yet, there is one group seemingly unaffected by the #metoo movement which seeks better accountability concerning sexual violence: politicians.
On both sides of the aisle, sexual harassment and assault appears a pervasive problem and yet, each case comes with a partisan split. When news broke of Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore allegedly making sexual advances on teenagers while he was in his thirties, the leader of the Republican Party and President of the United States himself rushed to his defense. Democrats criticized the party for their lack of moral fiber, but when confronted with their own reckoning, some liberals did just the same as Republicans.
Many stood by Minnesota Senator Al Franken, accused of forcing a kiss on Leeann Tweeden and groping her while she slept. Despite the photographic evidence, Democrats used Tweeden’s conservative ideology and her career as a model in efforts to discredit her.
Democratic Representative John Conyers has also been accused of sexual harassment and yet House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was unable to state whether or not she believed his accuser.
Some Democrats have used the defense that, comparatively, what Franken and Conyers allegedly did was not that bad. Yet just because what Moore is accused of was worse does not make what Franken and Conyers are accused of right.
Sexual harassment and assault should not be placed on a spectrum where victims are invalidated simply because their experience was not as bad as it could have been.
Perhaps even more troublesome is the faction of Democrats who believe the women that have come forward, but insist upon inaction. In the case of Al Franken, too many people have argued that while he took advantage of a woman, he should still remain in his Senate seat if only to fight for liberal values.
What values do liberals stand for if we continue to allow perpetrators to maintain their position? And what message does this send to those women who were brave enough to come forward that we could recognize their trauma and yet still make the case that the men who caused them so much pain should still hold so much power?
Democrats should not waiver when it comes to believing these women, but more importantly, they should not waiver on how they treat the accused based on political preference.
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), out of 1000 cases of sexual assault, only 33 percent are reported and only 0.6 percent of perpetrators are incarcerated. The top reason for choosing not to report is a fear of retaliation. Thus, when prominent cases such as those against Franken are brought to light and people tear down the victims, it sets a dangerous precedent for continuing to accept the abuse and threatens to undo the progress that has been made these past few months.
Moving forward, we can no longer sit idly by and defend those accused of these horrendous actions. And if, as Democrats, as feminists, we say that we believe women, we need to believe all women, not just those who fit our agenda.
This article originally appeared in The Post (thepostathens.com). Ashley Fishwick is a senior studying English Pre-Law and Political Science at Ohio University.