Sexual harassment

By the amount of explaining, there’s a lot of losing

Oh man, this Sutton thing is just a political tar pit.  Grown men stood around a self-admitted sexual harasser, and one even hugged him.  This is especially poignant as unwanted hugs were part of the sexual harassment complaints.

The perpetrator was flanked by¬†State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie and Prime Minister and Cabinet boss Andrew Kibblewhite. ¬†Their presence, at this press conference full of spin, was to send a very clear signal: ¬†“Do. Not. Mess. With. Authority”.

It didn’t work out. ¬† And now they’re busy running damage control.

It was last week’s press conference that called into question the judgement of both State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie and Prime Minister and Cabinet boss Andrew Kibblewhite.

Mr Kibblewhite has acknowledged it wasn’t a good look.¬†Now he has finally offered an explanation to the Prime Minister for “that hug”.

“He certainly offered an apology for the picture that that demonstrated, which is not one that he was trying to display, that he was siding with the chief executive,” says John Key.

Mr Kibblewhite, who earns $489,000 per year, told the Prime Minister he was there to support the rest of the organisation, not Mr Sutton.

“We’ve had a good conversation about something that I don’t think he handled nearly as well as he could have. He may have had the right reasons but the execution was poor,” says Mr Key.

Not a good look.

These aren’t stupid men. ¬†They knew exactly what they were doing. ¬†What they didn’t expect was the huge public blowback this would cause. ¬†After all, the boys club, on TV, showing solidarity, the victim, keeping to confidentiality and staying away from the political roller derby that was busy trivialising her concerns and sending a clear signal that these sorts of things would not be tolerated.

So in the face of all that power and intimidation, what went wrong? ¬† Read more »

Do people resign over hugs? Do people resign over sexual misconduct?

Well, the Sutton debacle got off to a very stage managed start. ¬†But it’s spun totally out of control now.

3 News

3 News

The woman who made a sexual harassment complaint against Cera chief executive Roger Sutton is “torn up” and upset he has been able to foster public sympathy.

The victim has been told by State Services Commission (SSC) lawyers not to speak publicly about the case. She has repeatedly declined to comment when approached by Press.

The Press has obtained details of the complaint from a source that describes the nature of Sutton’s alleged impropriety.

They include:

– Suggesting to young female staff that they participate in “visible G-string Friday”.

– Unwanted, body-press hugs.

– Asking the complainant whom she considered to be “hot” and “sexy” and who she would like to have sex with.

– Calling female staff members “honey” and “sweetie”.

Anyone¬†promoting “visible G-string Friday” better be working at a strip club.

But the allegations get worse ¬† Read more »

High price to pay for hug

Mike Hosking joins the ruck

Just for the record so we can save ourselves the letters of complaint and the misconstrued outrage driven by those not hearing exactly what I am saying, I don’t for one moment condone any sort of weird, odd, unacceptable, strange, old world, dumb, inappropriate behaviour towards women in the workplace. Further, I don’t know the ins and outs of what Roger Sutton did or didn’t do at the CERA offices.

What I can say with some confidence is whatever it was, it appeared at the less serious end of the spectrum. What I know for a fact is it wasn’t serious enough to warrant a sacking. He seems to have admitted using words like honey and sweetie, which strike me as old world and tragic kind of terms in the modern workplace.

But if that’s it, can we make the argument that whoever the complainant or complainants are they have caused a great deal of harm over what I strongly suspect for many would be dismissed as misguided behaviour if not the silly musings, meanderings or mistakes of a bloke who in reality meant no real harm.

The whole problem with this debate is that we have become so sensitive to such matters, anyone second guesses themselves if not third guesses themselves before saying anything at all. Read more »

Stop telling women to smile

Beven Hanlon has nothing on this guy

Beven Hanlon is just your average union thug, who uses or allows others to use Corrections resources for his own political ends, and who has his own sordid little affair to try to keep quiet…but he has nothing on this union boss in the UK, who it seems is a predatory rooting ratbag.

A trade union baron described as a ‚Äėsexual predator‚Äô has¬† quit after harassing his¬† married assistant.

Jonathan Ledger, general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, was said to have had a six-year affair with Cordell Pillay.

When the affair petered out in 2009, he carried out a lewd campaign to reignite it ‚Äď grabbing her bottom, exposing himself and leering at her breasts, a tribunal heard.

When his behaviour was exposed, the union is said to have mounted a ‚ÄėJimmy Savile-style cover-up‚Äô.

Mr Ledger eventually resigned in disgrace and Mrs Pillay has now been awarded £15,000 by an employment tribunal for sexual harassment. She also made a claim for unfair dismissal after her sacking in 2011 over budget errors, but the panel ruled it was fair.

Although Mrs Pillay denied having an affair with Mr Ledger, employment judge Mark Emerton ruled: ‚ÄėThe two had a¬† consensual sexual relationship dating back to 2003, when they were both¬† assistant general secretaries.

‚ÄėThe relationship was sustained by sexual contact in the union‚Äôs offices and, particularly, away at occasional residential conferences.‚Äô ¬† Read more »

Power, Sex and Len Brown

I have a mate who reckons that tall men always get women, and often as many as they want…especially if they stand on their wallet, their fame or their powerbase.

Catriona McLennan writes in the Herald about exactly this behaviour and that of Len Brown’s.

Powerful, older men caught having affairs with young, non-powerful women invariably say that the matter is a private one between them and their families.

It is not.

The reason is that the men have used their positions to obtain sex from the young women. This happens every day in New Zealand and all over the world.

It is a widespread pattern of behaviour which involves men exploiting women. Were it not for the man’s office, the young woman would not be having sex with him.

The pervasiveness of the behaviour means that it is not isolated and private: it actually constitutes sexual harassment and discrimination.

Pressure on the young woman by the man may sometimes be subtle. At other times, it may be overt. The young woman may receive the message that she will get advancement if she provides sex – or that, if she does not provide sex, she will be denied promotion or punished in other ways.

We are all familiar with powerful men with repeat patterns of behaviour of inviting young women to dinner to “discuss your career”. These men do not give similar invitations to men, or to older women who are new to the workforce.

Look at the legal profession, the business community, the media and other sectors – it is happening everywhere.

What these men are conveying to the young women is that it does not matter how qualified, intelligent or hard-working they are, their advancement remains dependent on providing sex to men.

This has been the case for thousands of years and each new example which becomes public reminds us that the position has not changed. ¬† Read more »

Ways to avoid becoming a sex pest

With all the murk that has been thrown at me and the Palino campaign in an attempt to distract from Len Brown’s personal failings and his dodgy behaviour people have missed several points.

With regards to the affair it was never about the sex…it was always about the power relationship…Len Brown thinks that he can take advantage of a much younger woman, granting her favours regarding references, jobs and then perks including ¬†what can really only be described as “quickie sex”. Never mind the serious code of conduct breaches.

With all the other evidence piling up in the tipline inbox that needs investigating it seems to me that there is a real problem with Len Brown that transcends a simple affair between consenting adults.

The Guardian has an article that applies in every way to the situation that Len Brown finds himself in.

Following¬†an incident in which a female science blogger was called an ‚Äúurban whore‚ÄĚ for not writing a guest post for free,¬†writer and playwright Monica Byrne¬†updated a year-old¬†post detailing an encounter in which she was sexually harassed, with the revelation that the person in question was Bora Zivkovic, Blogs Editor for Scientific American and a figurehead for the science writing community.¬†Zivkovic confirmed¬†that the incident happened, and many people were left confused and shocked.

Except it turns out that what happened to Byrne may not have been an isolated incident. A Scientific American blogger, Hannah Waters, then posted claims about her experiences with Zivkovic. It has been heartbreaking to see the ensuing flood of stories about personal harassment, abuse, and the legacy of trauma and self-doubt that it leaves. At the same time, it is encouraging to see that many people feel they are now able to come forward and talk about their experiences, and that many are trying to reflect on their own attitudes and beliefs, and learn from the mistakes of others.

So how can leaders combat this pernicious culture of sexism and abuse of power?¬† Read more »

Ratbag Mayor goes down mired in sex scandal

Everything is about sex, except sex. Sex is about power.

Francis Underwood – House of Cards

What is it about politicians and dodgy risky behaviour?

The dodgy ratbag Mayor of San Diego has resigned in a sex scandal.

Mayor Bob Filner resigned on Friday under a barrage of sexual harassment complaints, offering an apology to his accusers while still denying the allegations and blaming his downfall on ‚Äúa combination of awkwardness and hubris.‚ÄĚ

Mr. Filner compared his situation over the last several weeks, under accusations by more than a dozen women, to facing a ‚Äúlynch mob.‚Ä̬† Read more »

Phil Quinn on Darren Hughes

Hard core Labour activist Phil Quinn has some words to say about the Hughes Affair:

This is a terrible series of events.  It appears that the 18-year old was subject to unwanted advances by an MP, which is bad enough. But the fact that the two allegedly met while the MP was acting in an official capacity makes matters significantly worse, elevating it to a serious abuse of position and trust.    This, if true, is what makes the story a genuine scandal, whatever the specifics of the incident itself.

Labour is refusing to comment at the time of writing, which is probably because they are furiously gathering facts and devising an appropriate response. ¬†There may also be some hope that the scandal will go away if the accuser decides against pursuing the matter. ¬†If falls somewhere between inconceivable and unlikely that this will happen ‚ÄĒ name suppression is a tenuous form of containment in New Zealand at the best of times.

My understanding is that heavy drinking was involved in the lead-up to the alleged events.  This is par for the course, both with respect to the NZ Parliament (which is a booze barn) and with respect to the MP himself who is widely known to imbibe with great and growing enthusiasm.

Therefore, the alleged scandal contains at least the following elements:

  • The MP made unwanted sexual advances towards an 18-year male after an official function
  • The MP is gay or bisexual, but has concealed the fact
  • He has a drinking problem

This appears closely reminiscent of the Mark Foley scandal whereupon the Florida Congressman got in deep water over sleazy text messages and emails he sent to Congressional pages. The same abuse of authority, the same murky and closeted sexuality, the predictable role of booze.  Foley resigned in disgrace after it became clear he would be turfed by his colleagues if he didn’t.  He then attempted to mitigate his actions through revelations of alcoholism and childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a priest. Foley is now openly gay, and there are periodic reports that he is considering a return to public life.

On the basis of those facts it is hard to see how or even why Labour is dying in the ditch to defend Darren Hughes.

What can our Labour MP learn from the Foley scandal and, more generally, how can he begin to respond to these events?

First, if these allegations turn out to¬†accurately reflect events, there is no hope that the MP can remain in Parliament. ¬†It is not because he is gay or drinks too much; it is that he, at the very least, is guilty of straight-forward sexual harassment. ¬†If, for example, he was accused by someone at a gay bar of acting inappropriately or abusively, this would be damaging but not fatal (although this would complicated by the presence of a spouse). ¬†In such a scenario, he would need, probably, to leave the front-bench ‚Äď but as long as he managed his response to the sexuality/alcohol abuse questions, he could stay in Parliament and rehabilitate his career. ¬†At a gay bar, he is just another drunken, horny closet-case. ¬†Take a number, get in line.

Coudn’t¬†have¬†said it better myself. This isn’t some sort of gay bashing slug-fest. What is important here is the abuse of authority and the sexual¬†harassment, it matters not a bit that Darren Hughes may or may not be gay.

If the allegations are false because the events did not occur or occurred in a drastically different way, he must obviously fight until his name is cleared.

If the allegations are false by dint of¬†subjective interpretation of events, he must avoid allowing this to descend into a unedifying spectacle of¬†‚Äúhe said-he said‚ÄĚ. ¬†He will get no credit for disputing the account of an 18 year old. ¬†It is far better to concede what he can¬†on his terms. ¬†While obviously avoiding self-incrimination on the advice of his lawyers, he ought to frame the events in a way that does not attempt to demean, or indeed blame, the alleged victim. ¬†This will not save his career in the short term, but will give him a fighting chance at rebuilding his reputation over the coming years.

A serious complicating issue here is the conflation of homosexuality with pedophilia, which is unfortunately well embedded in our culture.  There is little doubt that certain elements will want to characterise this as something akin to child abuse despite the alleged victim’s age (18).   If this were to take hold in the public mind, this represents a fatal blow to the MP’s reputation.  It would elevate the scandal to a new level of seriousness with broader implications for the Labour brand.

Uhmmm not sure I agree with Phil here. To my knowledge no-one except Phil Quinn himself has made the link, tenuous and false though it is, of homosexuality with pedophilia. If I was Darren Hughes I wouldn’t be listening to that piece of advice.

Personally¬†I don’t care one way or another about a person’s sexuality. I care very much though whether there has been an abuse of¬†power¬†or authority. Sexual¬†harassment¬†is not acceptable wither in the¬†heterosexual¬†community nor in¬†the¬†gay community. This is the issue here, along with Labour’s apparent willingness to try to whitewash the issues and now their scurrilous attacks on the alleged victim that they are shopping around the place.