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Most say sex misconduct victims lack protection

  • FILE - In this Dec. 7, 2017 file photo, the office of Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., is seen in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington. Most Americans say sexual misconduct is a major problem in U.S. society wherever people go to work, train or learn, and too little is being done to protect victims. That’s according to a new poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) J. Scott Applewhite



Associated Press
Friday, December 22, 2017

WASHINGTON — Most Americans say sexual misconduct is a major problem and that too little is being done to protect victims, according to a new poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. But some — particularly Republican men — are concerned about the rights of the accused.

The sheer speed with which an accusation of sexual misconduct can sink a career rattles some men, and not just Republicans. Bart Cassida, a 40-year-old Democrat from Indiana, said he tends to believe the accusers. But he’s concerned about employers “immediately dismissing people without proper investigation.”

“People think that men don’t mind being that kind of guy,” someone physically assertive with women, said Dan Lee, 65, a Palm Springs, California, Democrat who retired after a four-decade career in computer science. “I think that’s wrong ... men are concerned with their reputations.”

The poll shows that nearly 6 in 10 Americans think there is too little protection for the rights of people who have been victims of workplace sexual misconduct. By contrast, just 37 percent think there’s too little protection for people accused of sexual misconduct, 35 percent think there’s the right amount and 26 percent think there’s too much.

Majorities of women of all political persuasions, as well as male Democrats and independents, think too little is done to protect victims, but only about a third of male Republicans think the same. Among Republican men, by contrast, 52 percent think there are too few protections for the accused. Just 33 percent of Democratic men and 39 percent of Republican women think that’s the case.

Whether there’s a balance to be struck between protections for accusers and the rights of those accused of sexual misconduct is part of America’s reckoning with the problem. Women and some men have come forward in recent months with allegations credible enough to topple titans of entertainment, news, and members of Congress — often with blinding speed. Just what is an unwelcome sexual advance, and whether there should be life-altering consequences for what some might see as just a dumb remark, have ignited ferocious exchanges across U.S. society.

“On that side of it someone should have a chance to defend themselves,” said Cedar Rapids, Iowa, resident Emily Hass, 40, who says she’s confronted two people who harassed her. She’s among the 56 percent of Americans who think harassment is a major problem in U.S. workplaces. “Absolutely. I think we don’t even know the half of it.”