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OPINION: Shocked sexual harassers and their enablers are still at it? Yeah, #MeToo

Elisa Cafferata
Elisa Cafferata

Some see the news that the College of Southern Nevada hired Ruben Kihuen as its executive director of government affairs as evidence that nothing has changed — it's just politics and patriarchy as usual. We don't see it that way. It's 2024, and everything has changed.

Don’t get us wrong: There are still perpetrators of sexual harassment across the state. At least 60 percent of women (and, of course, some men) experience unwanted sexual attention in their workplace. It’s common, and it’s rarely reported. But the #MeToo movement has empowered women to come forward. In this harasser’s case, several brave women raised their voices. And while some of these women left their positions, as many victim-survivors do, they ousted a perpetrator from a position of leadership. 

There are still enablers. Here we are with the College of Southern Nevada and Federico Zaragoza. There are far too many places where women have to pay an unacceptable price because this behavior is still tolerated. These attitudes can still be found at all levels of government, from school boards to state agencies. Businesses are still too slow to respond to complaints. In these cases, there is a cost to those filing a complaint as well as to the business itself. One in seven women will seek a job reassignment or quit because of sexual harassment,

The College of Southern Nevada may be happy with its choice, but we predict it will be hard to stand by this decision for long. First of all, because women — who scrutinize harassers carefully — are going to judge these kinds of decisions using an updated and more robust standard of fairness. And in Nevada, we are no longer tolerating this behavior.

In recent years, legislators and high-profile businessmen have resigned in the face of similar charges. Our legislature passed bipartisan legislation to protect victim-survivors. Our legislature spent the last two sessions working on legislation regarding sexual misconduct specifically within the Nevada System of Higher Education. A female-majority legislature, Congressional delegation and Board of Regents aren’t environments where known perpetrators can be effective lobbyists. 

It’s 2024 and people are making it clear where they stand. Our social media feeds are filled with other men (we see you Jon Ralston) standing up, talking to their peers, holding them accountable. They are doing the work and taking on the mental load of figuring it out themselves. 

The tables are turning in government agencies and corporate board rooms. Recent reports warn investors that corporate sexual harassment has the “potential to destroy company value.” The pandemic separated perpetrators from victims, giving those who have been hurt the space to speak out and be heard. At the federal level, President Joe Biden signed the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act. This law means companies can no longer force those filing sexual harassment lawsuits into confidential arbitration proceedings.

To the women and men who have been hurt, pushed out and otherwise impacted: The Nevada Women’s Lobby, a nonprofit organization that advocates for Nevada’s women and families, has your back.

More can be done. Nondisclosure agreements are still being used to silence survivors and some states are taking that on. Independent review in certain situations such as military settings is needed for true accountability.

We have always advocated for a Nevada where women and families are safe and treated with respect at work, school and home. We hear you. We support you. We are working for equity so the spaces you live and work in are safe. We are working for a system that supports you so all Nevada families can thrive. We are working for justice. We are asking everyone to join us in building a Nevada where everything has changed.

Elisa Cafferata is the chairwoman of the Nevada Women's Lobby.

The Nevada Independent welcomes informed, cogent rebuttals to opinion pieces such as this. Send them to [email protected].


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