Author’s/Editor’s Note: This editorial is in response to questions brought forward from the previously published editorial. Utah Political Capitol appreciates your continued understanding regarding the topic and hopes it creates a greater conversation about sexual harassment, abuse, and assault.
Last Sunday, I published an editorial related to the recent controversy surrounding Rob Miller, who was running for Chair of the Utah Democratic Party until he made the decision to drop out of the race and, indeed, the Democratic Party. In that editorial, I corroborated and expanded on one of the events outlined in a letter sent to the Democratic Party. After the letter was leaked to the press supporters of Mr. Miller used the information contained within to call into question the legitimacy of the claims of my wife, Jill Haring, as well as the claims of six other women. Angered, I discussed the culture of victim blaming and asked that people examine their own biases before choosing a side.
Since that time, Mr. Miller, through a surrogate (his significant other, Ms. Andrea Ibanez) posted a series of screenshots that, presumably, are intended to discredit Jill’s, and by extension, my credibility. Mr. Miller hasn’t relented even after withdrawing from the race, having subsequently posted these same messages across Facebook on Friday.
“I’m humiliated…I know why people kill themselves”
[pullquote]The worst part about Mr. Miller’s publication of these messages is that he doesn’t seem to notice that: a) none of them disprove the fact that Jill received unwanted physical contact from Mr. Miller on the occasion in question, or that she still actively avoids Mr. Miller in person when placed in similar situations as to the one where the alleged misconduct took place, or that she requires anxiety medication when choosing to attend events where Mr. Miller might be present; b) Jill was specifically concerned about appearing to be flirty, going so far as to state the opposite; and c) messages show that she did not actually meet with Mr. Miller, just that she spoke of making potential plans.[/pullquote]Unfortunately, I have to assume the above link is still active; Mr. Miller subsequently had me blocked from his page after Ms. Ibanez posted the link roughly six hours later on the Utah Political Capitol group page.
Regardless, I have chosen not to delete the link to these posts within the comments section of the article because I am not afraid to discuss the contents therein. I have, however, had to rely only on screenshots provided to me by third parties to piece together the following timeline and summaries. Regrettably, Mr. Miller’s half of the conversation is missing in many posts, making context somewhat difficult:
- During the 2011 Salt Lake County Democratic Convention (I presume April or May), the previously discussed event between Mr. Miller and Jill took place.
- November, 2013: Jill presumably replies “Ughhh,” possibly in response to an initial statement by Mr. Miller.
- December, 2013: Jill presumably initiates a conversation stating that she read one of Mr. Miller’s posts, makes the comment that “Mr. Clooney has nothing on you!” and asks how Mr. Miller is doing, showing sympathy “for the rough times” Mr. Miller has been going through, adding that she knows Mr. Miller “will thrive!” She adds that Mr. Miller is “one of my favorite people I’ve met through Curtis’s political stuff!” She closes by asking if Mr. Miller is ready to be “fixed up on a date.” At the time Mr. Miller was understandably upset after a divorce (or a relationship that ended that took place after the divorce. I do not recall that timing).
As the conversation progresses, Jill suggests that the two “should grab coffee…and show you who I want to line you up with” adding a winking emoji and suggesting a co-worker as a possible match.
Jill then asks “aside from the recent drama, how are you doing? I feel like I haven’t seen you in forever.” Presumably Mr. Miller then responds positively, as Jill then says “That’s wonderful…I’m happy to hear you’re happy.” She then asks when Mr. Miller will be back in town.
It is unknown if Mr. Miller responded. Jill states, however, “Don’t take this as flirty or anything, but perhaps we could do coffee tomorrow. It’s [sic] be fun to catch up,” adding that she would like to see if Mr. Miller is interested in two individuals.
Mr. Miller presumably provides a response, and Jill suggests a possible time to meet. After a presumed amount of time has passed without a response, Jill follows up and asks if he is there. Eventually, they settle on Poplar Street Pub on a Thursday.
The following day, a Wednesday, Jill cancels and asks if Friday works. On Thursday, Mr. Miller agrees.
The meeting doesn’t occur. One week later Jill asks about Mr. Miller’s general health, if there is anything she can do to help, and wonders if the two can “do lunch soon.” Presumably there is no response from Mr. Miller and no meeting takes place.
- January 2014: Jill sends a personal message to Mr. Miller expressing sympathy for difficulties Mr. Miller was going through at the time, relaying a similar story to Mr. Miller with the comment “I found comfort from my dad from some of Curtis’s friends – including you! You’ve always gone out of your way to make me feel welcome, and I thank you for that. I want you to know that I’m always here for you. It’s what friends do.” Jill adds a heart emoji.
Mr. Miller’s responses become visible at this time, and he thanks Jill. This, I believe, was in response to a breakup between Mr. Miller and a then-girlfriend, though, again, I do not recall with certainty.
- June 2016: Jill asks Mr. Miller if his daughter works at a local swimming pool. After a brief back and forth where Mr. Miller finds out that his daughter does work at the location, Jill states that she will say hello to her and that she knows Mr. Miller. – This is the last recorded communication between the two.
[pullquote]Mr. Miller did succeed in one thing: if the publication of these messages was an attempt by Mr. Miller to shake Jill to her core, he was beyond successful. Though I may be livid at Mr. Miller, I pray that he never hears a loved one say what Jill said to me on Sunday night between sobs: “I feel humiliated…I understand why people kill themselves…I feel emotionally and physically sick.”[/pullquote]The worst part about Mr. Miller’s publication of these messages is that he doesn’t seem to notice that: a) none of them disprove the fact that Jill received unwanted physical contact from Mr. Miller on the occasion in question, or that she still actively avoids Mr. Miller in person when placed in similar situations as to the one where the alleged misconduct took place, or that she requires anxiety medication when choosing to attend events where Mr. Miller might be present; b) Jill was specifically concerned about appearing to be flirty, going so far as to state the opposite; and c) messages show that she did not actually meet with Mr. Miller, just that she spoke of making potential plans.
The leaked exchange appears, instead, to show that Mr. Miller is attempting to distract and deflect attention away from himself by throwing up Red Herrings. But, Mr. Miller did succeed in one thing if that is the case: if the publication of these messages was an attempt by Mr. Miller to shake Jill to her core, he was beyond successful.
I discovered about the posting of the messages not because I received notice on Facebook, but because Jill saw them first and was inconsolable. She felt that she had somehow betrayed me, betrayed the other six women named in the letter and, perhaps most dramatically, she had betrayed herself.
Though I may be livid at Mr. Miller for using this tactic against Jill, I pray that he never hears a loved one say what Jill said to me on Sunday night between sobs: “I feel humiliated…I understand why people kill themselves…I feel emotionally and physically sick.”
When the love of your life tells you something as raw as that, you yourself feel helpless and hopeless, even if you know she would never act upon such feelings (something she reaffirmed several times that night). I could only imagine what Jill was going through. I did the only thing I knew to do: held her, talked to her, reassured her, let her cry, and just loved her.
Reminding the Victim That They Are a Victim
[pullquote]Ms. Ibanez on Sunday and Mr. Miller himself on Friday, retraumatized Jill – confirming many of the anxieties she had about coming forward in the first place.[/pullquote]Ms. Ibanez on Sunday and Mr. Miller himself on Friday, retraumatized Jill – confirming many of the anxieties she had about coming forward in the first place. I also saw on social media that these actions triggered similar emotions among several women who had experienced sexual assault in their own lives. I can only imagine how the other six women who chose to sign the initial letter felt when they saw what Mr. Miller was willing to do to Jill.
I can not claim to know the logic Mr. Miller had when he decided that it would be a good idea to publish these messages, but it had the social and psychological effect of reminding Jill that she was a victim by revictimizing her.
These types of aggressions are so effective because they are so insidious.
As I stated in my previous editorial, Mr. Miller absolutely has the right to defend himself and the serious allegations that Jill, myself, the six other women on the letter, and a number of people that have come forward since should be expected to provide as much information as possible to appropriate independent parties as the truth is discerned.
[pullquote]These types of aggressions are so effective because they are so insidious. I suspect that they were released as a character attack against Jill in hopes that it will discredit her story among the public and possibly get her to retract her statement.[/pullquote]But that most likely wasn’t the intention when these messages were released. I suspect that they were released as a character attack against Jill in hopes that it will discredit her story among the public and possibly get her to retract her statement.
But, perhaps, this wasn’t Mr. Miller’s intention. Perhaps he legitimately thought that this was proof that what Jill experienced was somehow incorrect. Why, after all, would a victim help an abuser?
As this was originally posted to Mr. Miller’s Facebook page, it comes as no surprise that the majority of comments that follow agree with Mr. Miller’s assumption that this was unequivocal evidence that Jill and I are liars. Through various levels of disrespect and derogatory statements, the general summary of these comments is that, if Jill felt harassed, why would she attempt to have lunch with Mr. Miller and attempt to arrange dates for him?
[pullquote]If I were an outsider unfamiliar with the psychology of being a victim, I could completely understand how someone could conclude that this was proof that nothing happened. It doesn’t make sense, and it is a completely irrational response to want to continue to have any sort of affiliation with someone that has harmed you. Yet victims maintaining some sort of relationship, even a relationship that appears positive, is surprisingly common.[/pullquote]And, if I were an outsider unfamiliar with the psychology of being a victim, I could completely understand how someone could come to this conclusion. It doesn’t make sense, and it is a completely irrational response to want to continue to have any sort of affiliation with someone that has harmed you. Yet victims maintaining some sort of relationship, even a relationship that appears positive, is surprisingly common.
The question, “why would Jill want to help her abuser?” is one worth exploring.
I spoke to both a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Psychiatrist who, between the two of them, have more than 40 years of experience working with all types of individuals. They requested anonymity because they didn’t want to be perceived as formally diagnosing a condition but they did help to shed some light on the question “Why?”.
The social worker noted that many people often don’t understand what sexual assault even means. She pointed to a definition from Marist College as one of the best definitions she has seen on the topic. Physical sexual harassment is “unwanted physical contact, including touching, patting, pinching, hugging, brushing against another’s body, or interference with an individual’s normal physical movements, attempted sexual assault, [or actual] sexual assault.”
She added that, after working with survivors for many years, she would see many victims be very congenial with their abuser and that they are sometimes willing to go above and beyond to assist their abuser. Why? Though each individual is different, common reasons were that they fear retribution for not helping or that, by helping, the abuser won’t harm them in the future. The abuser, knowingly or not, takes advantage of this because they have already demonstrated a lack of respect for boundaries.
The psychiatrist I spoke to only echoed these defense mechanisms, pointing me to a New York Times article that stated “women feel a responsibility to be emotional managers of relationships and often want to keep things friendly” according to Antonio Abbey, a psychologist at Wayne State University.
She also pointed me to some powerful messages from the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, which she said summarized her thoughts well (emphasis added):
Many victims continue to have a relationship with their abuser.
Though it may be difficult for the public to understand, it is common for survivors of sexual abuse to continue relationships with their abusers after the abuse has stopped. Individuals react to trauma in different ways. For example, it is common for victims to maintain contact with their abusers because they may still feel affection for them even though they hate the abuse. This is especially normal when the abuser is a member of the family or a close family friend. It is also common for some victims to maintain contact in an attempt to regain control over their assault. Others may maintain contact in an attempt to regain a feeling of normalcy.
Additionally, offenders often intentionally build a connection or a bond that isn’t broken as a result of sexual abuse. The abuse is often one element of an otherwise loving or fun relationship. Offenders may intentionally maintain the non-abusive parts of the relationship to keep victims feeling close to them and thus less likely to report the prior abuse.
In short, what Jill did was not only common, it was actually a mild version of it – as some victim/abuser relationships are deep and long-lasting. Based on message frequency, and on my own personal recollection, Jill had a very basic version of contact with Mr. Miller once every two years, and no in-person meetings took place.
[pullquote]I encourage you to take a look at what has been independently written about victim mentality and decide for yourself what the above means.[/pullquote]I understand that some people have already made up their minds one way or the other regarding the whole situation, along with the specific attempt above by Mr. Miller to discredit Jill’s account and, by extension, the accounts of myself, the other six women that have come forward, and several other accounts made by the women and men who have chosen to come forward and express their experiences on social media. But, for those of you who have attempted to keep an open mind in an attempt to discern the truth and were concerned as to what these messages might mean for that, I encourage you to take a look at what has been independently written about victim mentality and decide for yourself what the above means.
What if I am Lying?
[pullquote]There is no common thread of Chair endorsements to be found among the victims who have come forward, only that one candidate for Chair shared a common thread.[/pullquote]My goal in writing this, the previous, and a probable final article next week, is to educate and provide the facts as I know them; I have purposefully not deleted comments and have only blocked individuals because I felt that their only intention was to harass me or my wife. It is my belief that the truth doesn’t require distraction, deception, or denial. As I said, if you have already made up your mind against me, my wife, the six other women in the letter, and the number of other individuals who have since spoken up, I doubt there is very little I can do to change your mind. But if you made it this far, I will leave you with a parting thought.
Suppose that both Jill and I either lied or misunderstood events. Feel free to throw out our statements. But just because we were bad at playing political chess and were found out, does it mean that the number of people who also had their own independent experiences with Mr. Miller are doing the same?
It is estimated that 2-8 percent of sexual assault cases are falsely made, which means that, at the high end mathematically speaking, there is only a .000002 percent chance that all seven people in the letter are liars. If even one of them is telling the truth, regardless of who the individual is, it behooves us to start by believing and give the accusations the serious consideration they deserve.
For the delegates – I have no interest in telling you who to vote for, and neither do the other women on the letter (Jill, being a Republican, doesn’t even know the names of most of those running for chair, let alone care about who wins). There is no common thread of Chair endorsements to be found among their support, only that one candidate for Chair shared a common thread. Delegates: who you vote for is your decision to make. If Mr. Miller had chosen to stay in the race, however, I would have asked what that means for the party if you believe these accusations to be true.
It is my hope that going forward that we continue to create a party where all are welcome and free to express their truth free from harassment. That is the Democratic Party I subscribe to, and it is an ideal I think many Democrats share.
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.