Editorial: My Wife is Not a Liar – The View from the Victim’s Side

Curtis Haring – Editor in Chief

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. 

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Speaking out isn’t an act of political cowardice, manipulation, or bullying, but an act of personal empowerment.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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This editorial does not necessarily reflect the opinions of UPC or its staff.

Though UPC encourages readers to provide their opinion in the comments section (including opinions counter to this editorial), we remind commenters that UPC reserves the right to reject or delete comments deemed as vulgar or harassing in nature. 

15 comments for “Editorial: My Wife is Not a Liar – The View from the Victim’s Side

  1. Brian King
    June 4, 2017 at 7:27 pm

    Thank you for these comments, Curtis. I appreciate the thought and care you put into them.

    I have, of course, no personal knowledge of the truth or falsity of any of the information presented by the seven women who signed the letter. But based on my knowledge of some of the women who signed it, including Jill, I believe we can’t just ignore the letter as being a dirty trick or a last minute maneuver for political gain.

    Between now and the convention on June 17th, I think we should move forward to get more information about the allegations and then make what comes to light known to the delegates. We need as much information as possible before the 27th so that we, the delegates, can cast votes for the next party Chair with as much knowledge as possible.

  2. Brian McDonald
    June 4, 2017 at 7:35 pm

    I am sorry for your wife’s experience both past and present. I couldn’t agree more with the ideas in this article. I am an unrelenting optimist, but I really feel like most of us feel the same way. And that, in time, those who are offering anything but support and encouragement for your wife and the others will be remembered for their reaction. I hope that, instead, most people close to the issue will see the supportive response of the majority and be more likely to speak out against harassment in the future. I hope I am right that we are the majority. The situation has certainly made me feel more vigilant about paying attention and advocating where I can.

  3. Bill Keshlear
    June 4, 2017 at 8:15 pm

    Thanks for your candor, Curtis. I am deeply sorry for your wife.

    Perhaps Miller will respond to this.

    What’s been missing for me is the apparent lack of any evidence to support these allegations (For example, did you or your wife mention Miller’s “wedding kiss” to somebody at the time, somebody who could corroborate your version of the incident?). The women who claim to be victims have not, as yet, consented to reply to basic questions. Why is that? There’s no hint of criminal assault. No stigma. Retaliation? No signed affidavits. No recordings. No videos. No photos when everybody has a camera. Just vague, unchallengeable recollections of separate alleged incidents that span months or, I suppose, years. There’s no timeline.

    After reading the letter, it’s unclear to me who claims to have been assaulted, groped, harassed, subjected to inappropriate behavior, etc. and who merely played a role as a witness or interpreted what a third party saw. It’s all pretty squishy.

    I am hopeful the signers will tell us their full stories in detail – what, where, when, context, for example – and they’re able to corroborate those details.

    If they decline, it will diminish the new chair’s ability to carry out even basic duties of the job, such as fundraising, and split the party for possibly years.

    • Nate Blouin
      June 4, 2017 at 11:53 pm

      The problem, Bill, is that a candidate for state chair, someone who represents democrats in Utah on a state and national level, who’s responsible for the image and financial solvency of the party in order to elect Democrats to positions on all levels of government, has shown a consistent pattern of inappropriate behavior. While the timing might appear ‘sketchy’ to some, it seems to me as though it was done out of necessity to shed light on a pressing issue that wasn’t being taken as seriously as it should have been, and I can also say with certainty that it’s been festering for months at the very least. It seems as though there was some political opportunism employed by certain parties after the private release of the letter, but that shouldn’t detract from the severity and prudence of the victims’ allegations. In the greater contemporary political climate, I think it’s quite reasonable to expose even what some might consider to be minor misdeeds (I’m not characterizing myself this way, I find the pattern, dating back years and in all likelihood only a sliver of the full scope, to be quite concerning) in the interest of ensuring that someone of the highest character is chosen to head the party in the coming years. As a Democrat, I’ll practice what I preach and start by believing.

      • Bill Keshlear
        June 5, 2017 at 8:49 am

        Nate, show me the evidence of behavior that might cast a public relations cloud over the Utah Democratic Party if it were known publically. Give me specifics to weigh against Miller’s significant contributions to the party over the past 15 years or so and his deep knowledge of party mechanics and potential donors.

        As far as I know, none of the signers and their many supporters – including yourself – has come forward with anything beyond innuendo, rumor, vague, and unsubstantiated allegations of inappropriateness that could be defined in myriad ways leveled, if I am reading their letter correctly, by second- and third-hand sources hiding behind a lawyer and reported as news.

        • June Taylor
          June 5, 2017 at 5:45 pm

          Bill, Curtis gave you an eyewitness account of what happened to his wife. As to your query “For example, did you or your wife mention Miller’s “wedding kiss” to somebody at the time, somebody who could corroborate your version of the incident?”….I’m afraid you have missed about half the points Curtis was making. If it were so easy to do what you ask, then 90% of rapes would not go unreported. Having said that,I appreciate that you want definitive proofs….photographs, signed affidavits. Maybe these (affidavits,at least) will be sent to the judiciary committee. But photos? Really, you must be joking. No woman I know has the presence of mind to whip out her cell phone when mostly we’re just trying to figure out “did he just DO that??”. Your expectations on this point are not realistic – we’re not war photographers who have cameras at the ready just in case and have split-second reactions.

  4. Josie Valdez
    June 5, 2017 at 12:04 am

    It did take a lot of courage for the seven women to come forward and tell their stories. It had to be both painful and empowering to re-live and repeat their varying experiences. I am distressed with the victim shaming which has occurred and am sorry for the pain your wife and the other six women may be enduring. Sexual harrassment at any level must never be tolerated. It is important for there to be a way to safely and effectively deal with issues of sexual harrassment, and any other harrassment, within the Democatic Party. I feel the current Party leaders have a responsibility to deal with this issue quickly and responsibly.
    Because I am an active Democrat and am seeking a leadership position in the state Party, I am concerned with the manner in which the letter signed by the seven women has become public. I feel that the public rhetoric and social media banter has harmed the women, the Party and the accused. I feel the Party must act quickly
    In resolving this issue.
    I say this because I know many of the women who signed the letter and have no reason to believe they are lying. On the other hand, I have known Rob Miller for many years and he had always been treated me with dignity and respect. Also, I have never witnessed any of the behaviors of which he is accused. Because so many of the aforementioned are leaders and active in the Party, the Party must must act quickly to resolve this issue.
    We have a responsibility, as Party leaders, to protect all members of our Democratic family. Thus, we have a responsibility to all involved- the victims and the accused and their families.
    Let’s take care of this issue and then let’s get back to work moving the ideals of our Party forward. And yes, this includes social justice, empowerment to all and a voice for everyone.

    • Kirsten Park
      June 6, 2017 at 4:37 pm

      Actually, Josie, these seven women did NOT come forward and tell their stories (not to me at least, or publicly – maybe they did to you privately).

      What they DID do is sign their name to a letter listing 8 offenses – indicating that they believe these eight offenses happened. Which is fine advocacy but doesn’t begin to first hand stories “bravely coming forward.”

      (The exception is Jill Haring, via Curtis who recounted his wife’s story — and I think we can all agree THAT incident is suspect based on the fact that 3 years after the fact, she was in very affectionate conversation with Rob Miller.)

      When people tell me I should start with “believing the victim”… I take that to heart, but who am I believing? and what is she saying happened to her?

      Here is what I have NOT read: any anecdote where a woman was touched/hugged/flirted with, and asked him to stop, and he persisted. That’s the definition of harassment and/or abuse. Saying it was unwanted attention, 3 years later, or two months later, in a letter in the form of a complaint, is the same as asking him to stop at the time.

      I agree that the incident, as described in the complaint of Feb 2017, would be disturbing if it happened between professional acquaintances, or between strangers – with OR without permission, it would be inappropriate for a candidate.

      However, if between friends, not at all. And if it was between friends, where boundaries might not be as clear because of that friendship, it IS incumbent upon the recipient to speak up and say, “do not do that.” But since that particular complaint is anonymous, I can’t come to an opinion on that.

      • Kirsten Park
        June 6, 2017 at 4:45 pm

        Er, correction:

        “in a letter in the form of a complaint, is not the same as asking him to stop…”

  5. Shelley
    June 5, 2017 at 10:08 am

    As a delegate, I am asking you to please address the screenshot Facebook messages from Jill Harring to Rob Miller. I would like to understand why someone would invite a person they viewed as a predator to coffee and offer to set them up with friends? Messages are shown from last year. I’m not trying to be provocative, but I don’t’ understand. I want to understand. Is the information false?
    https://www.facebook.com/UtahAmicus/posts/10154496548547617

  6. Brandy Farmer
    June 5, 2017 at 10:24 am

    I am a victim advocate first, before anything else. In the hundreds of curricula, I have written and taught across the country about abuse, at the forefront I always start with, “First of all, believe the victim.” I know a few of the women that are the authors of the letter sent to the democratic leadership, of which I was included, and have no reason to doubt their honesty. I believe them. I feel that the Judiciary Committee should deal with the matter quickly. I only wish that they had come forward much sooner so that their plea to hold the Democratic party to a higher standard would not be suspect to question about their motivation. Perhaps it is because each felt she was alone in her experience. As a Democrat, I am extremely concerned that anyone that is active in the party leadership or otherwise is exhibiting the kind of behavior written in the letter. It is an embarrassment to my party and I recommend that if anyone is remotely exhibiting this kind of behavior that he/she STOP now. The Sleeping Giant of Hate against women courageously coming forward with their stories of sexual assault (yes, sexual harassment is a form of sexual assault) has been awakened by Trump. If my own son was exhibiting any kind of disrespect toward anyone, I would want him to be held accountable. Signed by a domestic violence prevention specialist.

    • Kirsten Park
      June 6, 2017 at 4:39 pm

      I start with believe the victims. Other than Jill’s story, shared by Curtis, I don’t think we have heard any one victim’s story. What we have is a letter, signed by multiple people, saying they all believe these things happen.

      That’s different than a victim coming forward with her story, don’t you agree?

      • Carol
        June 7, 2017 at 2:18 am

        Kirsten, you’re wrong.

        Several of the women who signed did provided details to previous party leadership. In at least two cases, dating back to 2009.

        As a personal witness to both those complaints taking place and as a witness to one incident complained about in person, I’m flabbergasted you pretend to no so much but no so little.

        Let’s all ask ourselves why we didn’t come forward more aggressively years ago, rather than debase ourselves to the level of Trump voters victim shaming in defense of our personal allegiances.

        We all know Rob and call him a friend. This is hard for all of us to process. But your words here, and willingness to accuse the victims for not airing every dirty detail publicly (some if the stories now submitted to the committee were very difficult for these women to share) to convince YOU are disgusting.

        • Kirsten Park
          June 13, 2017 at 2:17 pm

          Name call all you want. I stand for a fair process. I get that it’s tough to be a victim and have to come forward but if you want people to believe you, you have to.

  7. George Spencer
    June 5, 2017 at 5:03 pm

    If he is guilty, I will happily denounce him.

    However, Rob is posting actual screenshots of instant messages when he was still single between him and Jill (after your wedding) where she is trying to hook him up with not one, but a couple of her friends. Whatever you are describing is a speculative accusation. Everything in that letter just happens to be anecdotal accusations too. Rob has tangible proof after the “incident” you describe, that doesn’t lend credence to this whole thing, at least in regard specifically to your wife.

    Is that something women commonly do with men who they think are rapists, or whatever you are trying to characterize him as/ equate him to? Do women set their friends up on dates with rapists? Are women typically chummy with misogynists who make them feel like they were raped? Does that make sense to you? It sure as hell doesn’t make sense to me, but I don’t know as I am not a woman, nor do I speak for any women, including my wife.

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