Author’s/Editor’s Note: Though Utah Political Capitol seeks to write and editorialize issues from a non-personal standpoint, extraordinary circumstances have placed individuals close to Utah Political Capitol directly in the news. Readers are asked to understand the reasoning for the deviation from a standard editorial.
If you are involved in the Utah Democratic Party at all, you are most likely aware that in recent days a letter from seven women found its way to the media that allege various instances of sexual misconduct by Rob Miller, who is running for Utah Democratic Party Chair. One of those women is my wife, Jill Haring, and over these same few days I have been appalled by the utter lack of decency she, along with the six other signees, has received from individuals.
Before I go any further, I want to make it abundantly clear that unless otherwise explicitly stated, I do not speak for the seven women in any way – their words and allegations are their own and are outlined in the letter sent to the Democratic Party.
My Wife is Not a Liar
First and foremost, I want to make one thing clear: my wife is not a liar. I stand by my wife without hesitation, both in life and in regards to this particular issue. However, I will also state that in this particular issue I not only inherently trust her statement as true, I will corroborate it as an eye witness.
Not long after we were married, I witnessed Mr. Miller ask my wife for “his wedding kiss” and lowering his hand down Jill’s backside. As I was roughly 10 feet away from Jill at the time, all I initially witnessed was Mr. Miller saying something very close to my wife’s ear and make some odd bending motion (Jill is under five foot tall while Mr. Miller is more than six). Noticing Jill’s look of distress, I quickly came over to find out what was happening only to have Mr. Miller quickly exit and Jill inform me of what occurred.
[pullquote]When I hear people accuse my wife in particular, and the other six women in general, of making such stories up, exaggerating the situation, or just being “too sensitive” I feel an anger deep inside. It is easy to make assumptions about situations you didn’t see, but it is very hard to live with the long-term ramifications of being victimized.[/pullquote]When Jill was in her early 20’s she was raped by two men. She does not hide this fact but, as you can imagine, she also does not like to talk about it either. Over the years she has discussed both the physical and psychological turmoil associated with that event. She has discussed trauma associated with having a rape kit examination take place upon you, the fear she had to come forward, and her regret in not doing so.
At the time of the incident, and again with the publication of this letter, Jill has told me that the actions of Mr. Miller put her in the same mental mindset as the night she was raped – causing her to suffer from anxiety, depression, and insomnia after the incident with Mr. Miller. Jill also wants to make it abundantly clear that she does not give equal weight to the rape when compared to Mr. Miller’s actions – simply that Mr. Miller’s actions caused her to feel similar emotions.
I am often asked when attending Democratic events where Jill is or why she didn’t show. I have often brushed them off with something like “oh, she doesn’t like these political things” or that “she isn’t feeling well.” Though this is true, it isn’t the full truth, which is that Jill is so concerned that she will have another run in with Mr. Miller (or any other individual that sees little concern with such actions) that it is emotionally best for her not to attend – this is a truth that is not a comfortable one to say. Indeed, she has asked me on almost every occasion if she thinks I think Mr. Miller will be attending, if I tell her yes, it is understood between us that she will not be attending.
Being a politico of sorts, this can take a toll – I know that Jill wants to be supportive of me, but I do not want to force her into a situation I know could be potentially harmful for her. The few times she has attended events, she has been forced to rely on anxiety medication and we have a predetermined exit plan as soon as she gives me the signal that she needs to go.
This is no way to go through life, but it is our reality.
So, when I hear people accuse my wife in particular, and the other six women in general, of making such stories up, exaggerating the situation, or just being “too sensitive” I feel an anger deep inside. It is easy to make assumptions about situations you didn’t see, but it is very hard to live with the long-term ramifications of being victimized.
[pullquote]It matters little if Mr. Miller truly didn’t know what he was doing was causing harm or if he felt his actions were “culturally acceptable,” the simple fact is that his actions did cause very real harm to the love of my life that continue to reverberate to this day.[/pullquote]It matters little if Mr. Miller truly didn’t know what he was doing was causing harm or if he felt his actions were “culturally acceptable,” the simple fact is that his actions did cause very real harm to the love of my life that continue to reverberate to this day.
Though I can’t speak to the feelings of the other six women named, I would imagine that they have similar stories in their own lives of previous sexual improprieties put against them and similar feelings towards how they were and are being treated. The sad truth is that sexual violence in Utah is grossly underestimated, 1 in 3 women experience some form of sexual assault in their lifetime, 1 in 8 have been raped, 12 percent report being subject to indecent liberties, and that, 9 times out of 10, the perpetrator is known by the victim.
So shame on anyone who, without any knowledge of the situation, automatically comes to the conclusion that my wife is lying. What does she have to gain by doing so? She isn’t involved in Democratic politics and knew she would be attacked for coming out. Jill made a serious accusation because she has felt seriously harmed by it.
One does not tread lightly into such things, and I know she chose to come forward because of her own regrets of her previous inaction and her desire to not have others experience similar distress.
The Courage To Speak
To that end, I want to talk about the courage of her, along with the other six women, to speak in the first place.
The simple fact is that most victims are very concerned about others knowing they had been sexually assaulted. Though each individual who chooses not to report has their own reason for not doing so, common reasons for not doing so include self-blame or guilt, shame, embarrassment, humiliation, and (perhaps most importantly in this case) fear of not being believed.
Automatic rejection of such claims as some sort of political power-play only enforce this final point and perpetuate a culture of protecting perpetrators and punishing victims.
But it doesn’t end there. This culture is self-enforcing. Victims become ignored and then become isolated; isolated victims feel disenfranchised; disenfranchised victims don’t take action to prevent future actions by perpetrators; perpetrators act again and a new victim is ignored. Doing nothing in this culture is the status quo, which makes speaking out all the more courageous.
[pullquote]If supporting my wife in coming forward with a story I know in my heart and head to be true means being turned away from the party I have devoted years of my life to, I say so be it.[/pullquote]Though my wife has little say or influence within the Democratic Party, she knows that I am involved in, and care about, the party’s future; furthermore, I know that she does not wish to recklessly harm that relationship. But, if supporting my wife in coming forward with a story I know in my heart and head to be true means being turned away from the party I have devoted years of my life to, I say so be it.
Similarly, the six other women who chose to sign the letter had various and diverse influence within the Utah Democratic Party and have a lot to lose socially, politically, and financially, by signing their name – yet they all chose to do so.
Mr. Miller is entitled to defend himself, but to attempt to spin this as some sort of campaign stunt is disingenuous at best – in all my years in politics, I have never seen people willingly and purposefully put so much at risk for one election cycle – and the simple math of it wouldn’t add up, at least in my mind, if that were the case. Whisper campaigns and “October Surprises” don’t work if you know the names of those doing the whispering in black and white for all the world to potentially see.
The reality is that these are serious charges made by serious women because of serious concern that came about because the run for chair caused these women to dare to come out of the shadows, overcome their fears, and speak their truth. Each of these women no doubt know that there is a very real possibility that Mr. Miller will be elected chair and that they may have to go into political exile because of their actions…but they chose to speak anyway.
[pullquote]Speaking out isn’t an act of political cowardice, manipulation, or bullying, but an act of personal empowerment.[/pullquote]In my mind, speaking out isn’t an act of political cowardice, manipulation, or bullying, but an act of personal empowerment. Something we as Democrats (I thought) championed.
Disappointment in my fellow Democrats
Though I am saddened and angered by the attacks against my wife and, by extension, the six other women who signed the letter, I am appalled by the reactions of many fellow Democrats that I felt I held core ideals with: ideals of equality, social justice, and empowerment.
Some people shy away from classifying themselves as a feminist – but I embrace it. Why? Because feminism is the crazy notion that women are just as smart, talented, capable, and capable of self-actualization as men and acknowledging that we, as a society, have policies that structurally prevent women from reaching this equal footing in reality. The Democratic Party (at least the Democratic Party I know) has embraced these ideals and promotes various policies that help bring about this greater equalization.
On a grand scale, individuals may truly believe and fight for these ideals, but on the smaller scale it runs fundamentally counter to these ideals to dismiss these women as liars, manipulators, or exaggerators for no other reason than your perceived biases. The true feminist doesn’t ask you to trust these women simply because they are women, rather the true feminist demands that you don’t callously dismiss them simply because they are women.
Tied in with that is the Democratic ideal of social justice and empowerment – that everyone should have access to the table and that those people have the right to be heard. Again, the automatic dismissal and unabashed tearing down of these women is a clear indication that there are many who don’t aspire to these ideals – instead opting for base, tribal thinking. Everyone, both the accusers and the accused, deserve the right to equal footing when making their case so that the truth can be heard; but the knee-jerk assignment of motives, and the subsequent perpetuation of these assumptions, runs counter to this ideal.
[pullquote]Let us also not forget how there was near universal anger towards President Trump when he spoke of “grabbing [women] by the pussy” and that he was “automatically attracted to beautiful [women]—I just start kissing them.” dismissing it all as “locker room talk.” Yet, I have seen many comments that have amounted to similar dismissals. If this doesn’t smack of hypocrisy and putting the party over people, I don’t know what does.[/pullquote]Let us also not forget how there was near universal anger towards President Trump when he spoke of “grabbing [women] by the pussy” and that he was “automatically attracted to beautiful [women]—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.” dismissing it all as “locker room talk.” Yet, I have seen many comments that have amounted to similar dismissals. If this doesn’t smack of hypocrisy and putting the party over people, I don’t know what does.
I am not blind to the fact that people will make assumptions based on the events that have occurred, but I challenge everyone to take a deeper look into why they feel the way they do, to strive to discover their inherent bias and to fight against such basic urges to help make us all better people.
Victim Blaming: More Terrible Than You Can Imagine
I want to end where I began, by talking about the hate and anger directed at the love of my life for no other reason than she made the decision to sign a letter attesting to certain events.
I always knew that victim blaming was a very real and very common problem in such situations, as did Jill, but I was ill-prepared for the sheer amount of pure, raw, anger one person is willing to shell out towards another human being simply for stating their own truth.
Despite all that I have stated above, I do understand that people will take sides when something like this comes to light, it is human nature to do so. What I don’t understand is the constant, unrelenting, cruel, and vindictive nature that has spewed forth, not from the accused, but from those surrounding the accused.
Over the past few days I have had my eyes opened to the darker side of human nature in a way I haven’t experienced prior – and though my love has also received many notes of support, it is still disheartening to see how willing and eager some are to tear down complete strangers.
[pullquote]I want to end where I began, by talking about the hate and anger directed at the love of my life for no other reason than she made the decision to sign a letter attesting to certain events.[/pullquote]We fear and hate what we don’t understand, and the partial cloak afforded to us by social media provides a level of dehumanization and anonymity that doesn’t exist in face to face interactions. But we all need to remember that their are human beings at the other end of your keyboard and that very real people experienced very real emotions both in initial interactions as well as when choosing to come forward.
Nothing I say in this post can stop people from feeling the way they feel about the situation, but I implore you to consider, at a real and honest level, the human factor in all of this.
This editorial does not necessarily reflect the opinions of UPC or its staff.
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