Introduction: I am once again making my blog available to someone in the animal rights movement who for many reasons must stay anonymous. I am confident about this information. Please note, there is some triggering information contained within it. If we don't have justice for women in this movement, we aren't going to have a movement. That means organizations and activists must take the topic seriously. And remember, all the risks women are going through in speaking up.
Thanks to all who are speaking up, Carol J. Adams
There’s so much I’ve wanted to say watching the #MeToo movement unfold. But, like many women in the AR movement, it has been ingrained in me not to speak up “for fear of hurting the animals.” I’m also a very private person. I’m an introvert, I don’t like drawing attention to myself and most of all I don’t want to be identified as a victim. I don’t want my success in life to be diminished or reduced to my sexuality or because of what one man put me through. I don’t want to talk about these things. I didn’t want to experience them or their aftermath in the first place so I certainly don’t want to talk about them!
But now it seems we have to. Reading article after article, story after story about the sexual harassment, abuse of power and worse by men has been shocking and emotional. I never understood fully the idea of “trigger warnings” until I started seeing stories about him appearing. Now I understand.
It is very difficult for anyone to believe he could do any wrong. But, he has done a lot wrong, for a very long time. And now he is being investigated.
Many are fearful of the industry using these stories to attack animal groups. But, if this unethical, unchecked bad behavior had not taken place to begin with, then they would not have ammunition for their stories. These are men who have put animal groups’ brand and missions in jeopardy with their actions- NOT the women who are coming forward and who are participating in the investigation. If you want someone to be angry at, direct it at the perpetrators. Not at the women who are brave enough to come forward.
There is no witch hunt. No one makes these stories up for fun. This isn’t fun for anyone, much less the victims/survivors. Calling an investigation a witch hunt before it is complete diminishes the severity of the issue and discourages women from feeling like they can come forward.
People want facts. They don’t realize that there are a lot of us women out here who have facts of our own. Facts of our experiences of sexual harassment. Facts about how this CEO told us, as his colleagues and subordinates, that if we would travel with him and we could be his fuck buddy, texted us late at night trying to develop a relationship, asked inappropriate personal relationship questions, repeatedly asked for sex and gave graphic details about how he would please us to pressure us or try to persuade us to say yes, asked us to strip for him, asked if he could masturbate in front of us, told us not to tell anyone because it would hurt his organization and his job and our jobs…
Facts about how if you did sleep with him that you would get promoted, more money for your program area, a job at this org even if you had no qualification or prior experience…
Facts about how if you said no to him he might tell you that “No one has ever told me no before”. Or if you declined because you didn’t want to cheat on your partner or spouse that it’s okay because “everyone cheats.” Or that he “doesn’t drink, or smoke or do drugs. That sex is my vice.”
Some people are arguing that these relationships are no big deal because they are consensual. Put yourself in these women’s shoes. The most powerful man in the AR movement is saying these things to you. He’s your boss. You don’t know what will happen if you say no- you don’t know what will happen to your job and you don’t know what will happen to you physically either.
The US Dept of Health and Human Services definition of sexual coercion includes being asked by your boss or a person with authority over you to have sex. This is an abuse of power. And it has been going on for decades.
Let us walk you through what this behavior creates as a work atmosphere:
- a place where when a woman gets hired/promoted/a larger budget people remark, “Oh, she must be sleeping with him” NOT because it’s a snarky thing to say but because he sleeps with so many staff members that it’s probably the truth
- a place where a woman’s worth and accomplishments are reduced by male and female colleagues to her sexuality or if she had sex with the CEO
- a place where rumors run rampant because the person at the top is creating an atmosphere of speculation through his behavior
- a place where female and male supervisors dismiss women coming forward with their experiences because “He just has a soft spot for women” or “If it doesn’t involve animal abuse, I don’t want to hear about it” or “You are lucky he likes you!”
- a place where toxic or unqualified or less than stellar workers are able to stay for years without getting fired because they are keeping the CEO’s secrets and are protected
- a place where people fear for their livelihood because they know there will be a sex scandal one of these days because of the CEO’s behavior
- a place where you never know if a volunteer, donor, legislative aide, or legislator you have to work with has also slept with him or been asked to
- a place where younger generations of men copy this behavior because they have seen the CEO get away with it for decades
- a place where, if you are lucky, someone warns you about him so you aren’t completely blindsided
- a place where you are forced to leave because you don’t want to deal with the drama and/or harassment anymore
- a place where men’s contributions are valued far more than women’s
It does not create a professional work environment and puts undue burden on all of the women and their confidantes carrying around these secrets.
These are stories from some of us. [Note from Carol: the following was posted while the investigation was ongoing; the investigation was stopped abruptly by the Board at HSUS when news of it was leaked. If you have experienced these or similar things, please stand with us and participate in the investigation where you can remain completely anonymous. The report will be fully sanitized to remove identifying factors and you will be safe. If information is unethically leaked, remember that several of us have had the same experience so do not assume a leaked story that seems familiar is actually your story. Don’t make us do this alone. Don’t make this an “us versus them, he said she said” game for the board. Please, stand with us and share your story with the investigators so we can send a message once and for all that this abuse of power will not be tolerated.]
There is so much more that we know and could say but hopefully this is enough for you to finally understand that this needs to stop. This behavior does not help animals! Talented women leaving our movement or dealing with all of this while trying to do their work for animals does not help the animals! Women staying silent about the myriad of other men in our movement does not help animals!
So, what do you want? Do you want women to stay silent? I’ll tell you what we want.
We want to create a movement where current and future generations of men know that this behavior is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. We want men, women and nonbinary people to be able to work together without being objectified, harassed, or bullied by their colleagues and fellow volunteers and activists. We want a movement where our emotional energy can be spent on work to help animals, not cover up or deal with sex scandals.
We want to save animals lives and stop animal suffering, without all of this other bullshit that gets handed to us while we are trying to do it.
Note: This blogpost was updated on February 2, 2018 at 8:20 p.m. to remove the reference to the attorney conducting the investigation at HSUS. That investigation was closed. It also was updated to place in brackets the invitation to share one's story to the investigator.