During the last few years, there has been a flood of sexual assault and harassment allegations against men in positions of power and trust. Recently, the New York Times wrote about the epidemic of sexual assault and abuse of women in the military. This summer, 2 lawsuits were filed against the Blackhawks hockey team, alleging that video coach Brad Aldrich sexually assaulted a former player and a high school player in 2010. University of Michigan physician Robert Anderson has frequently been in the news as more and more allegations of sexual abuse come out – along with allegations that key University officials heard about Anderson sexually abusing patients, but did nothing to stop him, allowing him to sexually abuse patients for almost 40 years. Andrew Cuomo, New York’s high-profile governor, has been accused of sexual assault by 11 women, many of whom worked for him. Last year, Harvey Weinstein was given multiple prison sentences for criminal sexual acts including rape, and these sentences were handed down after dozens of women reported instances of Weinstein sexually abusing and harassing them. In 2018, MSU paid survivors of Dr. Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse half a billion dollars during its first round of settlements after lawsuits were filed alleging that MSU officials were aware that Nassar was sexually abusing patients for almost two decades before MSU fired him. Lawsuits against USAG and USOC for failing to protect patients and athletes from Nassar’s abuse have also been filed.
THE ROLE OF POWER AND TRUST IN SEXUAL ABUSE
Power often gives abusers opportunity to act as predators because power can be leveraged to silence victims, dismiss allegations and punish accusers. In cases such as physician abuse of patients, the doctor is in a position of power and trust, and victims may believe that what the doctor is doing is legitimate medical treatment. Many people hold doctors in such high esteem that it can be very difficult to think that what the doctor is doing is anything other than medical examination and care. Robert Anderson engaged in sexual abuse that he touted as necessary medical examination, but he also asked for sexual favors and sexually touched patients without using the guise of medical treatment. These abused patients were usually very vulnerable, and they included patients who were gay during the beginning of the AIDS epidemic and had no other doctors that would see them, patients needing medical exemptions from the Vietnam draft, and patients who Anderson had gotten addicted to drugs. In addition, some of the people Anderson abused were at the University on scholarship. These students, many of whom were far from home, feared losing their scholarships, which included living expenses.
Sexual abuse on college campuses has long been considered an epidemic, and there have recently been many articles in the news regarding reports of university professors sexually abusing their students. MSU and U of M have ousted numerous professors due to sexual abuse allegations, and in some cases, they have let predatory professors quietly retire. It has come to light that university officials at these universities – and others – were long aware of their professors’ predatory behavior but did nothing. University students are vulnerable because college is often their first time away from home. Students describe being in awe of their professors, and the predatory professors take advantage of this. In addition, students often communicate with their professors via social media, cell phones, e-mail, Blackboard, etc., which makes direct communication easy.
Sexual harassment is defined by the Employment Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that in a direct or indirect way does one of the following: 1.) affects your employment; 2.) unreasonably interferes with your performance at work; or 3.) creates a work environment that is intimidating, offensive, or hostile.”
Sexual harassment includes a supervisor making sexual advances towards an employee against her / his will. An employee may be afraid to report the harassment due to fear of losing her / his job.
In the case of Harvey Weinstein, over 80 women have accused him of sexual harassment, assault or rape. Former associates of Weinstein’s have reported that his abuse of women was enabled by employees, colleagues, collaborators and agents who set up his meetings with the women. It has also been reported that Weinstein’s lawyers and publicists suppressed complaints of sexual abuse with payments and threats. Some women have alleged that when they were sexually harassed or abused by Weinstein, they made reports to his company’s human resources department, but found that this department cared more about protecting Weinstein than the women who were abused and harassed.
All instances of sexual harassment, assault and abuse should be taken seriously and reported to appropriate officials. Institutional involvement in aiding this abuse and covering it up helps predators flourish.
The courage of survivors to come forward and discuss their abuse will not only help them heal, but it will help other survivors as well. Institutions need to increase awareness of sexual abuse, initiate sensitivity training for all employees, and implement strategies for reporting any suspected instances of abuse.
THE AWARD-WINNING SEXUAL ASSAULT ATTORNEYS AT GREWAL LAW ARE HERE TO HELP
Grewal Law is honored to represent survivors of sexual assault and abuse. Grewal Law represented a third of the first wave of plaintiffs in the MSU and Larry Nassar lawsuits, and the Grewal team was instrumental in obtaining the half a billion-dollar settlement from MSU. Currently, the award-winning lawyers at Grewal Law are fighting to hold USAG and USOC accountable for their roles in allowing sexual abuse of their participants to occur. In addition, Grewal Law attorneys are part of a nation-wide team of lawyers working to hold University of Michigan accountable for allowing Robert Anderson to sexually abuse over 800 people, and Grewal Law is also working to hold University of Michigan accountable for its role in professor-student sexual abuse.
The attorneys at Grewal Law advocate for transparency, accountability, and justice for survivors, and are available 24/7 to answer your questions, give you resources, and / or help you with a potential case.
With more than 29 years of experience, Mick Grewal has the skills and knowledge to help his clients accomplish their goals, whether such pursuits involve sexual assualt advocacy, personal injury or medical malpractice matters. Founder and managing partner of Grewal Law, Mr. Grewal prides himself on providing full-service legal help to families in the greater area of Lansing, Michigan.