By Justin Armatis, Staff Writer
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn), in an interview with CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on Nov. 11, added her name to a long and growing list of women who have been sexually harassed.
“First year of marriage…Historical figure,” she said. “Hand kept going up the leg, I took it off. A woman member was at my table, recognized what was happening, and said ‘switch places.’”
The alleged incident occurred in the 1980s during a dinner at Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol.
Dingell also described how a former U.S. Senator in the 1980s was so aggressive towards her that “everyone on Capitol Hill knew,” but didn’t want her husband to know because she “was afraid he’d kill him.”
Dingell and her husband, former U.S. Rep. John Dingell, are frequent guests at the University of Michigan-Dearborn campus, most recently visiting in late August for a candlelight vigil in the wake of the events in Charlottesville, Virginia a week prior.
“I do not know any woman, from an intern to women older than me, that doesn’t have a story of some kind,” Dingell said. “So how do we change the culture? How do we make it so that every woman can speak up if something’s wrong that happens to them, and not have consequences?”
Dingell told WDIV-TV that it’s still not worth potential negative consequences to reveal who the alleged harassers are and wants to move forward in making progress on the issue. She hopes to change a culture which women are targeted by men and punished for speaking out.
In recent weeks, a plethora of prevalent individuals have been battered throughout entertainment, media, and politics.
Film mogul Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of inappropriate to criminal behavior by 80 women, hired private investigators, including Israeli intelligence agency Black Cube, who are “trained in Israel’s elite army,” to track actresses and journalists who could damage his reputation, according to The New Yorker.
Former host of the Fox News show “The O’Reilly Factor,” Bill O’Reilly, agreed to a $32 million settlement with a longtime network analyst for her silence regarding sexual harassment allegations, according to The New York Times. It was at least the sixth agreement of that nature made by O’Reilly. Despite this, 21st Century Fox granted O’Reilly a four-year contract extension in February that would pay him $25 million a year. O’Reilly was fired in April after 20 years at the network.
These are just a few examples of how women are silenced in sexual harassment situations and some of the consequences, and lack thereof for alleged perpetrators, of speaking out that Dingell was referring to.
“It’s men and women,” she said. “Women can’t do this alone. We’re going to do it because men and women are going to work together to help people become a little more sensitive.”
Dingell added that she has seen women target men as well.
“That’s the challenge right now, is to how to turn what some call a watershed moment, into a watershed moment for the country’s sensitivity to being thoughtful about [sexual harassment], to have somebody’s back. What steps do we take going forward to get people to think about it?”
CNN also reported on Nov. 11 that an anonymous Michigan woman accused former President George H.W. Bush of inappropriately touching her at a Dearborn fundraiser in 1992.
“People need to speak up,” Dingell said. “Men and women, speak up and say it’s not OK.”
When Camerota told Dingell that more people are speaking up, Dingell quickly replied, “Not enough.”