Flanked by her attorney, Gloria Allred, Bialek shared the details of an encounter with a powerful man that to many women, probably sounded quite familiar.
If you missed it, she said she had heard Herman Cain speak at an event; she and he sat next to each other during the dinner portion of that event, and she was impressed with his presence and message. When she lost her job at the National Restaurant Association a short time later, her then-boyfriend suggested she meet with Mr. Cain, who was the president of the NRA at that time.
She said she called Mr. Cain and asked if they could meet, and when he said yes, her boyfriend made a reservation for her at a Washington hotel, the location of the NRA. When she got to the hotel, she found that her room was an extravagant suite, not a “normal” room at all. She said she thought her boyfriend had gotten the room to surprise her. Later that evening, she went to dinner with Mr. Cain, and explained her need for a job and how she wondered if he could help her.
It was after dinner that Ms. Bialek alleges that Mr. Cain put his hand on her leg and moved it toward her genitals, and took her hand and moved it toward his crotch. Some time in the course of the evening, Mr. Cain had told her it was he who had upgraded her room (he asked her how she liked it). Ms. Bialek said she was surprised that he had done that, but even more surprised when he allegedly touched her in the car.
He stopped immediately, she says, when she protested, but the incident bothered her. Somewhere in the midst of all this, in the midst of her surprise, she asked him why he would do such a thing, and she says he said, “You want a job, don’t you?” She told her boyfriend about it, and one other person, but did not press charges of sexual harassment. Part of the reason was that she was embarrassed, part of the reason is that she wanted to protect her relationship with her boyfriend, and part of the reason was that she was unemployed at the time. The law is concerned with sexual harassment in the workplace.
Herman Cain has come out swinging, after a week of saying he will not discuss the “false allegations” that are being made about him, but as I listened to Ms. Bialek, I thought two things: 1) she has got to be telling the truth because she knows she will be attacked from every direction, and 2) what she described is so much a common story of women in the workplace.
The “good ol’ boys” have gotten away with a lot over the years, and few people have challenged them. More than once, I have had women tell me of similar encounters they have had with men on their jobs, and they have said nothing because they’ve been threatened. “Tell someone and I’ll get you fired,” I had a couple of women share with me.
Some of the women who have faced this have been high-powered women, on the rise, wanting their ascent not to stop, and others have been in far less glamorous situations. In addition to wanting to save their jobs, the women have been afraid to have their whole sexual history smeared all over the public arena.
Because of their fear, many women have kept their mouths shut, much like many rape victims have done. I have talked with women who have been sexually abused by family members, but stayed quiet because they were threatened, as well as women who have been sexually harassed in their places of work.
Too few women have stepped forward, and so the good ol’ boys clubs have gone on virtually untouched.
Interestingly, the sex scandal at Penn State is blowing up at the same time the Herman Cain situation is getting bigger and bigger. There again, it at least appears that the “boys” of the good ol’ boys clubs have taken care of each other. Why in the world would none of those high ranking college officials go to the police so that the alleged sexual abuse of young boys could have been stopped?
It’s the same mentality. Good ol’ boys sticking together. We saw it in the scandal that rocked the Roman Catholic Church; the priests protected each other. We’ve seen it in the workplace, in churches, everywhere.
Sharon Bialek is a brave one for coming forward. She urged other women to do the same. The only way the tight grip the good ol’ boys have on so much of society, in so many ways, can be broken up is for it to be challenged and exposed. The good ol’ boys have kept a tight rein on what goes on and what is prohibited in this society and indeed, in the world. They have made it difficult for women, for minorities, for anyone, really, to move as easily in this society as do they. So many in our society are afraid to challenge them, but challenge them we must.
Hopefully, Bialek’s experiences will be able to pass the truth test, and hopefully, Bialek herself will be able to handle the onslaught of criticism and disparaging remarks that are sure to come her way. Rush Limbaugh has already started, and there will be more. Ms. Bialek pleaded with Mr. Cain to be honest with what he has done, and “then move on.” She came not as a disgruntled Liberal, but as a proud Republican.
This isn’t about politics for her. It’s about the character of a man who would be president.
How much better it would have been if Mr. Cain had, from the outset, owned up to the fact that he had been accused of sexual harassment, and that he was sorry for any pain he might have caused. That would have been honorable. Everyone makes mistakes, yes?
But to react as he has, and come out fighting as he is, makes me wonder if he has too much pride to own up to his mistakes.
The good ol’ boys clubs have run roughshod over so many people for so many years. It’s high time that they are challenged with a fury and intensity the likes of which we have not seen before.
That is a candid observation.