Sexual harassment: The country gets an overdue awakening

It’s as if a societal taboo dam has been broken.

In recent weeks, allegations of sexual harassment and assault have become a dominant part of the daily news, uncovering an ugly, enabling culture in Hollywood and Washington, D.C., our entertainment and political centers.

It’s about time. Most of the women who have come forward have said they feared disclosing their experiences until recently.

We would hope the one positive that comes of all the recent public mess on sexual harassment would be a new reality: None of this is alright and those violated should not have to worry about disclosures for fear of public stigma.

Because of that stigma, we have an Alabama U.S. Senate candidate, Roy Moore, campaigning amid a string of allegations that he sexually harassed teenagers when he was in his 30s and committed other alleged missteps beyond that.

We have photographic evidence of a sitting U.S. Senator, Al Franken, groping a radio/television anchor and otherwise sexually harassing her during a USO tour in 2006.

These allegations follow the decades of sexual harassment that is now a matter of fact regarding Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, the litany of charges against comedian Bill Cosby and more recent allegations against another well-known comedian.

The back stories to these allegations are even more sordid. The allegations regarding Moore came out too late to get him off the ballot in Alabama’s Senate race, clearly the best route for Republican leaders.

We wonder about the timing of the story’s release date and whether there was preconceived political strategy to it.

Franken’s indiscretions are supposedly being turned over to an ethics committee, but is that merely a convenient garbage can to avoid or delay discussing whether he should remain in the Senate?

We also are learning in the past week that $15 million in sexual harassment settlement payments have been made on behalf of sitting elected officials.

Incredibly, it is taxpayers money being used. In what universe is that OK?

We are learning of staffers and aides to Washington officials and elected leaders who have been harassed in their workplace but feared for their employment futures and did not come forward.

All of this makes it pretty incredible that more was not done when it became apparent that President Bill Clinton was guilty of sexual indiscretions and wrongdoing – including rape charges – both before his Oval Office election and during his term.

The women who came forward with those allegations were largely shunned or ignored by the major media and politically powerful who could have done something about it.

Consenting adults have the right to do things that might not fit the moral code most people live by. We don’t condone that, either, but there’s a big difference between consential and forced acts.

None of the ugly news of the past several weeks falls into the consensual category.

None of this is OK.

Our country needs this awakening and a return to some moral integrity by those who have a privileged pulpit to speak from amid their political and entertainment towers.