Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Herman Cain Round Two: Sex Ed for Politicians

I've written similar blogs before on public figures who find themselves mired in public revelations of their sexual behaviors and relationships.

The list of "men behaving badly" seems almost endless and of both party affiliations, conservative and progressive, straight and gay. It also goes back in time and to the Bible -- just reread David and Bathsheba's story.

The latest allegations that Herman Cain had a thirteen year affair that he ended just as he entered the Presidential race certainly seem plausible to me. Men don't generally make 4:30 am phone calls to women they barely know. More will be revealed.

RH Reality Check asked me to comment, so I dusted off my "Sex Education for Politicians" article (first published here on Eliot Spitzer) and updated it. You can read it here:


It would be great for you to comment there or re post it. Maybe even send it to a public figure you know.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Blessings for Thanksgiving and a link

Dear friends:

I wanted to share this link with you to the piece I wrote for today's Washington Post.


It's more about what I think we've learned from the sex abuse scandals at Penn State and now Syracuse University -- as well as abuse by clergy.

But, today is also an opportunity to share my gratitude with you -- for your support, your ideas, your feedback, and your interest in all things sexuality and religion.

May this Thanksgiving you feel gratitude in your heart and in your soul.

May you feel loved and may you love.

May you take the time to share your gratitude with those who ennoble your life.

May it be a day of peace and blessings.

I am grateful for you.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

What Penn State Reminds Us About Abuse-Proofing Your Child

The high profile Penn State case of associate football coach Jerry Sandusky abusing children in his care over a ten year period should be shocking, but sounds all too familiar to those of us who work on sexual abuse prevention. Children are primarily abused by adults who know them well; people who abuse children look for opportunities to be with children and groom them as trusted adults getting to know them, as Sandusky did at his center; too many times other adults look the other way.

What is shocking though is to think that when reported, officials perhaps all the way up to Coach Patierno and even perhaps the President looked the other way rather than hurt the football program. I hope that isn't true, but it certainly reminds us of the Roman Catholic Bishops and Cardinals who did just that when faced with allegations against priests.

So, what does this remind us to do? First, to report any adult we suspect of child abuse.

And second, to use this as a teachable moment to 'abuse-proof' your children. Make sure that the programs your children attend -- scouts, soccer, school, church or synagogue -- have a strong policy on keeping children safe, including screening and background checks for volunteers and employees and never being alone with children. Make sure that your child knows that most people would never hurt children, but that an older, bigger, stronger person should never touch a child's genitals. Make sure your child knows that adults don't ask children to be their friends or keep secrets, and that if someone makes them feel bad, funny, or uncomfortable with their touch or their words, they should tell you. Tell them that their body is wonderful, it belongs to them, and that they can say no to unwanted touch. And finally, tell them to come and tell you if someone does touch them. You may not be able to prevent the first case of abuse, but if your child is equipped with language and this information, you can prevent the second.

It's been a week of teachable moments in the news, with Herman Cain and Penn State. I hope you are using them.

(For more ideas on preventing sexual abuse of children, you might want to read my books "From Diapers to Dating" or "What Every 21st Century Parent Needs to Know."

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Sexual Harassment: Why Herman Cain and The Commentators Don't Get It

As I listened to NPR this morning, I heard a report that Herman Cain said he was having a hard time remembering the details of the accusations (and settling) of sexual harassment charges. A male respondent I heard on CNN had said something like, "that happened twenty years ago; why is it even an issue now?"

I felt my blood boil. I was a victim of sexual harassment by a faculty member in 1976. I remember every minute of it, including having a professor hand me a room key, and finding the note on the door when I next came to my TA job, "your services are no longer needed." I also remember the woman faculty member who I went to saying, "It happens to women; we'll find you another TA job."

I remember exactly how I felt watching Anita Hill testify against Clarence Thomas, and how every detail of my own experience came flooding back. I remember how I felt when there was finally a federal law and definition of sexual harassment, so that future generations of women wouldn't experience what I had.

This week, I did the first required training ever for the staff of a national religious denomination on sexual harassment. Sexual harassment, because of the law, may no longer be as blatant as it was when a faculty member fired me for not having sex with him. But it still exists; workplaces including faith based organizations still need training on sexual harassment prevention; and women and men need to know that they can come forward and be taken seriously.

I'm hoping that Mr. Cain learns that lesson this week.