What Bernie should have said about allegations of sexual harassment on his campaign

We’re in a watershed moment for sexual violence prevention, but there’s so much left to do. Every day, in politics, sports, corporate America, Hollywood, and around the world, we’re reminded of how our culture falls short of treating sexual harassment, misconduct and abuse with the seriousness they deserve.

In 2019 and beyond, RALIANCE will be highlighting all the ways in which we still fall short of supporting survivors — and how all of us can do better to help end sexual violence in one generation.

The New York Times recently detailed sexual harassment, demeaning treatment, and pay disparity allegations from staff members on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. In an interview earlier this week on CNN, Anderson Cooper asked Sen. Sanders how he would ensure this doesn’t happen again.

Sen. Sanders acknowledged human resources missteps and offered an apology to those who felt mistreated. He then went on to tout his 2018 Senate re-election campaign in Vermont, where mandatory training and an independent firm handled reports, as a “gold standard for what we should be doing.” Sanders closed by reaffirming that he didn’t know the extent of the issue during the 2016 election due to being too busy campaigning.

In the #MeToo era, plausible deniability is simply not enough. Sexual harassment, misconduct and abuse are widespread societal problems that require fearless leadership and action. We expect more of our political leaders, especially those seeking the highest office in the land.

Here are four things we wish Bernie had said.

“This inappropriate behavior does not reflect my values, or the values of my platform and campaign. As the leader of that campaign, the buck stops with me, and I am ultimately responsible for establishing a work environment that promotes the safety and well-being of all employees.”

“Sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse have no place in our workplaces, and it’s on all of us to look out for each other. That starts with training and awareness, but it doesn’t stop there. To end sexual violence, we all must work to build a culture based on mutual respect, safety and equality.”

“We have put in place transparent policies, procedures, and reporting mechanisms that include training and awareness – not just for how victims may report but on addressing the inappropriate behaviors that enabled this to happen in the first place.”

“The Violence Against Women Act is a vital piece of legislation to support survivors access to services as well as prevention resources. Reauthorizing this important legislation right away must be a top priority for the new Congress.”

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