As mainstream media sees it, Roy Moore’s stunning special election loss yesterday in red-state Alabama to Democrat Doug Jones is all about narrowing Republican control in the U.S. Senate; or it’s about Trump’s inability to boost a fellow Republican; or it’s an early warning for Republicans as to how they will fare in the 2018 midterm elections.
But if the media could pull itself out of the 24/7 political swamp for a moment and broaden our nation’s horizon past 2018, we might consider the impact that last night’s events will have on the lives of the women who had the courage to come forward and accuse Roy Moore of sexually molesting them when they were young girls and its impact on the next generation of American girls who desperately need and deserve less hostile work environments in our so-called “democracy” when it’s their time to join the workforce.
From television news to Hollywood to Congress to the Oval Office, women have boldly said this year that enough is enough. They have risked their careers and backlash and lawsuits and revealed their sexual attackers, even after they had signed those barbaric gag orders as part of a settlement to shield their attackers from public disclosure. They have brought one of America’s darkest secrets of how women are routinely sexually demeaned in the workplace and “kept in their place” into the disinfecting sunshine of public scrutiny. That courage has inspired a long-overdue national debate on what America really stands for and if it is genuinely a beacon of hope to the world.
Putting a man like Donald Trump in the White House after he was caught on an Access Hollywood video admitting to grabbing women in their genital area and bragging that he could get away with it because he was a celebrity has only added more fuel to the burning question of just how bright America’s beacon actually shines to the rest of the world.
If you are a young girl working as a waitress or in a store in a Mall in Alabama, you won a victory last night. If you are the parents or grandparents of a young teenage girl, you can sleep a little easier tonight. Across America, adult men who prey on underage girls or young women in the workplace have received the message that even powerful politicos supported by the President of the United States can be shamed in the public square.
Roy Moore is the God-touting former Judge who, despite multiple, credible allegations of preying on young girls in his 30s, including allegations of sexually assaulting a 14 and 16 year old, received the support of President Trump. The special election was held to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions after Trump named him U.S. Attorney General.
But this national debate will fall short of meaningful change in our nation if the key underpinning of sexual assaults with impunity in America is not fully addressed and discontinued. Whether we are talking about sexual assaults within the Catholic Church, in the military, on college campuses, or on Wall Street, a private justice system has been tolerated and it is that no-court system that has allowed these atrocities to proliferate and to be shielded from law enforcement and public scrutiny. In many of these cases, our nation’s courts and jury trials were removed as a remedy to the victim of the crime on the recommendation of lawyers dangling a monetary settlement, of which they would get a quick, hefty cut.
When the Pope visited the United States in 2015 and commented on the “pain” of the bishops and their “courage,” Barbara Blaine, President of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), released a statement noting that it was bishops who “enabled horrific crimes,” and that only four have resigned. Blaine said further:
Virtually none of the other US clerics, (out of thousands) have ever been punished in the slightest for protecting predators, destroying evidence, stonewalling police, deceiving prosecutors, shunning victims or helping child molesting clerics get new jobs or flee overseas.
And no one in the entire US Catholic hierarchy, despite 30 years of horrific scandal and at least 100,000 US victims, has been defrocked, demoted, disciplined or even publicly denounced by a church colleague or supervisor, for covering up child sex crimes, no matter how clearly or often or egregiously he did so.
In the case of Wall Street, where sexual harassment and assaults on women are part of the business model for fine-tuning predatory traders, the industry is actually allowed to run its own system-wide private justice system where all claims by both employees and customers are barred from the courtroom under a contract that employees and customers must sign before getting a job in the industry or opening an account. The public and press are not permitted to attend the hearings; courtroom rules of evidence and case precedent are discarded; and instead of a jury of one’s peers there is a deeply conflicted pool of repeat-player arbitrators looking to please the industry that pays them.
Even in the case of Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood producer accused of abusing dozens of women in the U.S. and abroad, he was able to perpetrate his assaults over decades without public disclosure by effectively creating his own private justice system. Weinstein intimidated his victims into silence and then used lawyers to contractually bind them to iron-clad gag orders and monetary settlements.
All of these private justice systems and private agreements for silence are a repudiation of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1991. These critical acts of Congress were intended to provide civil rights protections in the workplaces of America, including anti-discrimination statutes and court remedies to stamp out sexual predators who use their position of superior rank to sexually harass subordinates.
The legislation confers on the private plaintiff the role of private attorney general to pursue not only her own claim but to vindicate the rights of other women to a workplace free of harassment and discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Federal agency that enforces the civil rights acts, has filed amicus briefs with Federal appellate courts, outlining the importance of the private litigant’s role in functioning as a private attorney general on behalf of society as a whole.
Women across America have made great strides this year in finding their voice and the power and energy that comes from a collective voice. That voice must now focus on these barbaric private justice systems that underpin the rot in America or no meaningful change will be forthcoming.
Editors’ Note: Pam Martens was the lead named plaintiff in a high profile Federal class action lawsuit filed in 1996 which sought to overturn Wall Street’s private justice system for civil rights plaintiffs and shine a bright light in the public courtroom on the egregious sexual harassment and sexual assault experienced by women on Wall Street. Martens walked away from the settlement crafted by the attorneys, which enshrined gag orders and left Wall Street’s private justice system in place.
This article originally appeared on Wall Street on Parade.