We are not and will not comment on any political action. We will solely address the impact of this situation on survivors across the state.
UTICA, N.Y. (Aug. 4, 2021) – The New York State Attorney General’s findings regarding the investigation of sexual harassment allegations against Governor Andrew Cuomo are deeply disturbing. Leaders must act with integrity, respect, and dignity for all.
In acknowledging the investigation results, Governor Cuomo displayed behaviors that we feel we should address as a violence prevention agency. As a non-profit organization, we are not and will not discuss the governor’s politics, only the allegations and his public-facing actions.
Whether it occurs in the workplace or elsewhere, sexual harassment is not defined by intent. It is defined by perception. The intention of an action, even if it was meant as positive, is irrelevant and harmful when perceived as negative.
The perception of the same gesture made for decades will vary based on the individual on the receiving end. That does not negate the experiences of those who found it offensive or harmful, especially if they feel it is sexual in nature (i.e., kissing). Consent is key. Consent is mandatory.
When coming forward with their stories and experiences, many survivors find the process extremely difficult, especially when it involves a person in power. The multiple women who came forward about the governor have already faced much backlash, but by identifying one individual in particular during his address, he has exposed that survivor to additional potential harassment and may have caused re-traumatization in sharing her story on a world stage.
In addition, his address brought to light the experiences of a survivor in his family. By sharing details of her assault, as well, he not only potentially re-traumatized her, but also tokenized her experience. Tokenizing is used to deflect from an issue by centering an affected individual or community instead. In this case, adding the story of his family member was not beneficial to her, but served only to distract from the overall issue.
When considering behaviors that are perceived as harmful, we must also address the rampant gaslighting throughout the governor’s address. Gaslighting is a commonly used form of mental and emotional abuse. According to the Oxford Dictionary, it is defined as “[to] manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.” By disregarding the numerous allegations brought against him, discrediting the investigation, and distracting from the issue (i.e. bringing up COVID numbers), the governor is effectively and efficiently gaslighting his community.
Governor Cuomo stated in his address that he knows his office is a “demanding” workplace. A demanding workplace, although not necessarily dangerous, can create a very challenging environment. Employees in every sector deserve a safe, comfortable, and supportive workplace in which they can thrive.
As the local experts on sexual harassment and violence prevention, we firmly believe all employees in every sector deserve a safe, comfortable, and supportive work environment.
Our mission to empower women means we believe survivors. We believe that any and all forms of sexual harassment in the workplace are unacceptable. We expect to see accountability and justice on behalf of every survivor impacted.
As he wrapped up his address, the governor said one thing we agree on: “our future is going to be what we make it.” So, let’s work together to make a future completely free of sexual harassment. This is how we will stay New York Tough.