Sexual harassment prevention training stops sexual assault and harassment to exactly the same degree that kicking off our shoes during airport screenings stops terror attacks.
So yes, we’re glad that after multiple allegations of sexual harassment at the Kansas Capitol and elsewhere in state politics, Kansas Democrats now seem to realize they have to get serious about sex crimes perpetrated or ignored by their own members and employees. But we’re not at all convinced that the training House Democrats will be getting next month is even a modest move in the right direction. No one needs training to tell him what constitutes sexual assault and harassment, or to tell him that predation is wrong.
Pretending that a class on what not to do is even a partial answer only revives the myth that men may end up bumbling into trouble because of changing standards or goshdarn grey areas about what’s acceptable these days. Only, not one of the allegations against disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein has been morally fuzzy. In the volcanic eruption of accusations that has followed, it’s telling but not surprising that so few have been open to misinterpretation. And we can’t think of any reported abuse of power that might have been prevented by a good training video.
Please raise your hand if you think that the Democratic campaign consultant who Wichita lawyer Kelly Schodorf says sexually assaulted her when she was a young congressional campaign worker would have benefitted from a seminar pointing out that following her to the rooftop of their campaign office, pinning her to the wall and grabbing her wrists as he “forcefully tried to come on” to her was not just inappropriate but criminal. No one?
House Minority Leader Jim Ward, who is running for governor, has proposed hiring an independent compliance officer and said offending lawmakers should be stripped of committee assignments. “I’ve been giving the issue of sexual harassment a lot of thought,” he said. We hope he will keep thinking, because a compliance officer would be unlikely to wield enough power to take on the kind of abuse that’s long gone on in both parties and state legislatures around the country.
Another candidate, former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, proposed “a proactive system to encourage reporting.” But only seeing perpetrators fired or forced out of office and prosecuted would do that. And seeing those who do report keep their jobs. One Kansas Democrat who seems to understand this is former ag secretary and gubernatorial candidate Josh Svaty, who said implementing a zero tolerance policy would be his first act as governor. “Calls for training and new reporting processes are simply not enough...Leaders need to place the burden on the perpetrator to stop or suffer immediate consequences.” We couldn’t agree more.