Column: The degrading sexual harassment epidemic in politics and the workplace


"Ed Bastian & Governor Andrew Cuomo" by DeltaNewsHub is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was accused of sexual assault and harassment.

Alyssa Endres, columnist

Content warning: Discussion of sexual assault.

Editor’s note: The Huntington News wants students to know Northeastern University and elsewhere provide sexual assault resources for students.

  • WeCare: [email protected], 617-373-7591, 226 Curry
  • University Health and Counseling Services (UHCS): [email protected], 617-373-2772, Forsyth Building, 1st Floor
  • 24/7 Mental Health Support: for students by phone (FIND@Northeastern) – 877-233-9477 (U.S.), 781-457-7777 (international)
  • Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
  • Sexual Assault Prevention and Survivor Services (SAPSS)

Sexual harassment is something that continues to occur in the workplace. Whether it be toward a man or woman, one aspect is usually the same: Someone in a position of power uses their status to take advantage of a subordinate. Politicians, in particular, are notorious for being involved in sexual assault scandals.

Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is just one of many politicians who was caught in a sexual assault scandal in the workplace. Cuomo was accused of sexually assaulting and harassing 11 women throughout the course of his time as governor and prior. The women that came forward described being groped by Cuomo, and one claims that he even reached under an assistant’s blouse. A five-month-long investigation was recently completed by the New York Attorney General Letitia James. The investigation reveals that Cuomo did indeed sexually harass numerous women. In response, President Joe Biden advised Cuomo to resign from office, which he did Aug. 10. However, Cuomo still eminently denies the investigation’s findings.

Since Cuomo is Italian, however, he claims that being affectionate toward people is a central part of his culture, and is a generational thing. This includes kissing women on the cheek and calling them “sweetheart.” Although this may be true, it is not an excuse for inappropriate behavior to occur in the workplace. In addition, it does not excuse more intimate actions, like groping and touching women in concealed places, which Cuomo was accused of.

That is why, for real justice to be served, a criminal trial needs to be held. In order to do that, Cuomo would need to be impeached by the New York Assembly and Senate and then removed from office, as required by New York State law. Since Cuomo already resigned, the assembly decided to suspend the impeachment trials. Having a court hearing, however, ensures that Cuomo’s actions are scrutinized in an actual court of law. Additionally, it would allow the victims to share their own stories and be heard.

Since this is an ongoing issue, it is not immediately clear what the outcome of this scandal will be, but there is one key lesson to be learned, legal issues notwithstanding. Accountability starts with people bravely coming forward and sharing their stories. Not only does this raise awareness of how common sexual assault is in the workplace, but it also can also help reduce the shame victims may feel around their own abuse.

Political figures across the country should be more aware of this and advocate for the justice of victims of sexual assault at work. Other political leaders should take note of Boston acting Mayor Kim Janey and how she took action against police officers accused of sexual assault. She fired a police commissioner after he was accused of assaulting two women.

“The investigation of Dennis White reveals a flawed process and a misguided department culture. It is clear from the report that we have to move in a different direction,” Janey said. Despite receiving some backlash

Political figures across the country should be more aware of this and advocate for the justice of victims of sexual assault at work

— Alyssa Endres, columnist

regarding her handling of the situation and withholding public records, taking action like this and instating consequences will bring about much-needed change within this country. While not perfect, it is a good move may politicians can take to start combatting sexual assault.

Bringing about more awareness and getting more serious about investigating allegations can help to end the stigma surrounding sexual assault. In turn, victims can feel safer and more comfortable speaking out. Northeastern students can make an impact as well by emphasizing and spreading awareness on the reality of sexual assault not just in the workplace, but also on campus. Student organizations such as Her Campus and Greek life can use their platforms to further spread the message to take action against sexual harassment. Sexual assault on campus, especially in Greek life, is something that occurs far too often, and needs to be brought to an end. Although it may be a long process, by taking these steps to combat sexual assault on campus and in the workplace, real change could be made over time.

Alyssa Endres is a third-year political science and communication studies double major. She can be reached at [email protected].