“Why Jamie Quient’s Disclosure Was Important”
For those of you who missed it—in February’s “LC News,” our President, Jamie Quient bravely disclosed an incident of sexual harassment that happened to her when she was a law student intern. Why is it important for people like this to speak out about past incidents of sexual harassment?
First, sexual harassment generally happens to young, naïve women, who are completely blindsided by the comments, and as a result, are ill-equipped to respond. Much like taking a self-defense class, during which an individual has the opportunity to think through how she or he might respond if attacked, disclosing these stories gives young women an opportunity to think through potential responses.
But it isn’t just about empowering young women. We know most of the men out there are good guys who are appalled by these incidents. They too are shocked when harassment occurs, largely because women don’t speak out and share their stories. It is important for men—particularly those who are older and in positions of equal power—to be prepared to step in and squelch a sexual harasser. As they say at the airport, “If you see something, say something!” These men need the opportunity to think through how they might respond to such a situation.
Finally and unfortunately, these incidents are all too common. Recently, I was in a group of women judges and prominent women lawyers. Someone asked who in the group had faced harassment of a sexual nature as a young lawyer. Almost everyone had. Hoping maybe things had improved since we had been young lawyers, I have been surveying law clerks and other young women I come in contact with. The stories have not changed. Sexual harassers may be in the minority, but they get around! And apparently they are empowering a whole new generation in their own image.
So speak out and speak up to empower others.
This blog post was authored by Hon. Cynthia Bashant, is a United States district judge for the United States District Court, Southern District of California.