Updated: Sep 5, 2021
By Clare Buchanan
Image via US News
Andrew Cuomo, the current governor of New York, has had a hell of a year. Within the last three months, he has had four major scandals. The first surfaced in January, when the Attorney General of New York said Cuomo’s administration purposely undercounted thousands of nursing home deaths during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, in an effort to downplay the severity of the virus. Then, nine women came forward and accused Governor Cuomo of sexually harassing them while they were working for him. Soon after that, a bridge named after Cuomo’s father was reported to be in unstable condition, but instead of taking the necessary measures to fix the bridge, Andrew covered it up thus putting the safety of citizens at risk. Most recently, it was unveiled that Andrew Cuomo gave his family special privilege over everyone else when it came to COVID-19 testing. The scandals keep piling up for Governor Cuomo, and while numerous politicians, including the President of the United States, both Democrat and Republican State Senators, members of the House of Representatives, and New York City Council members, have called for him to resign, he has not.
It is so disappointing, albeit expected, to see a man in power misuse his privilege to harass the women that work for him. While this concept isn’t new, it has only recently been talked about as a serious offense that deserves immediate consequences. Unfortunately, in order for the stigma behind it to be changed, women cannot be the only ones talking about this issue.
The first woman to come forward was 36 year old Lindsey Boylan, who reported that Cuomo would go out of his way to touch her “lower back, arms, and legs.” Boylan also recounted a moment when the two were alone in an office, and stated that when she tried to leave the room, Cuomo stood in front of the door and forcibly kissed her on the lips. Shortly after Boylan came forward, 25 year old Charlotte Bennet, a former aide, did too. Bennet claimed that Cuomo, age 63, would repeatedly ask her about her sex life and if she enjoyed sleeping with older men. Bennet reported the incident, and was just transferred before she left the administration in November of 2020. After these two allegations, Cuomo came forward and thanked the women for their bravery for speaking up, but also quickly denied the allegations. After the apology, two more women came forward. Karen Hinton accused Cuomo of inappropriately touching her after summoning her to his hotel room back in 2000. Ana Liss reported she was constantly uncomfortable around Cuomo because he would kiss her hand and ask her about her sex life. In response to Liss’s allegations, Cuomo went on to say that was how he treated all his employees, and that it was normal for him.
Some might be wary of the allegations from the nine women that have told their stories. Seeing as the number will likely grow, people will probably become more suspicious. Some will say the allegations were made to destroy his political career. But those who know what it is like to work in an environment where sexual misconduct is the norm, know that these allegations are not far fetched. They portray the sad reality that women in the workplace face, constantly being assaulted by men in superior, or even inferior positions. Women are not in the workplace to flirt and mingle, they are there to do their job. Men often argue most relationships start in a work environment and that eradicating some friendliness here and there is going overboard. But what they might see as friendly behavior can be traumatizing to some women. Little comments can be triggering, And never, not in any circumstance, should men in the workplace feel the need to touch their fellow female coworkers. Until we start publicly addressing this behavior, and until people actually start believing survivors, the Andrew Cuomos’ of the world will continue to come and go, harassing a plethora of women as they please.
The most honest conversation we can have as a society right now is getting men to understand where these traumas begin, and that starts with how women grew up as little girls. Men need to be sat down and informed about how when we were only eleven years old, grown men would follow us on our way home from school, asking us to smile, telling us our hair was pretty. We need to sit men down and tell them about how we couldn’t wear skirts as we grew older because our mothers were afraid grown men would stare at us on the street. We need to sit men down and tell them about how in our own schools we were touched, groped, and yelled at just for being women. We need to sit men down and tell them how we are sexually harassed from a very young age, and even when we are adults, it doesn’t seem to stop.
Women are taught safety precautions from the day we can understand them so that we won’t get sexually assaulted. While safety precautions can help prevent these tragedies from occurring, the only foolproof method of eradicating sexual assault is eradicating sexual harrassers. As a society we are trying to fix this problem by telling women in the workplace to wear more modest clothing, stop wearing large amounts of makeup, stop making eye contact, and keep their heads down.
But we aren’t telling men not to touch women or to maintain an appropriate level of workplace professionalism. Allow the women around you to simply exist. .
The allegations against Andrew Cuomo are now being investigated by New York’s attorney general, Letitia James. We can only hope justice will reign, and the events will unfold truthfully and respectfully to the courageous women that came out with their experiences.
The movement to end sexual harassment has only just begun.
Written by Clare Buchanan