Censure of state house members who perpetuate culture of sexual violence against women

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The Tennessean newspaper has exposed the depth of ignorance and insensitivity some members of our General Assembly possess.   On January 10, 2018, a Tennessean article revealed inappropriate and degrading comments made by Rep. Courtney Rogers, Rep. Joe Towns, Rep. Antonio Parkinson and Rep. Kevin Brooks during a sexual harassment training program.  News of the incident quickly spread, with articles also appearing in the Chicago Tribune and U.S. News and World Reports.

According to the article published in the Tennessean, Rep. Rogers clearly insinuates the clothing worn by a woman can be interpreted as an invitation to sexual harassment.  Rep. Joe Towns equated the fact he was being forced to attend sexual harassment training with the mental anguish and degradation a victim of sexual harassment feels.  After being shown a scenario in which a supervisor inappropriately touches an employee, Rep. Parkinson cited the employee's flirtatious nature with fellow employees as sexual harassment, essentially dismissing the behavior of her superior.  Rep. Brooks responded to the comment by insinuating flirting with fellow employees was a "sin" just as inappropriately touching a subordinate was a "sin."

Considering the current political and social climate, these comments show extremely poor leadership and demonstrate a complete lack of concern for the welfare and safety of Tennesseans.  The attitudes demonstrated by these Representatives also directly contribute to the continued culture of sexual violence so many are desperately trying to change.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics there were 323,450 reported instances of sexual violence in the United States in 2016.  Comparatively, there were only 284,350 reported instances in 2014.  At a time when sexual violence is on the rise, such disregard for the seriousness of the issue reveals the lack of respect these Representatives have for the citizens of Tennessee.  Their actions actions are disruptive and dangerous to the community, and dismisses the emotional trauma victims experience.

When members of the Tennessee General Assembly take their oath of office, they pledge to upload the Constitution of Tennessee.  Members violate that oath when they willingly consent "to any act or thing that shall have a tendency to lessen or abridge [the] rights and privileges" of Tennesseans.  It is up to Speaker Harwell to hold these members accountable.  By censuring these members, Speaker Harwell can assure Tennesseans she takes any form of sexual violence seriously and is willing to put the safety of citizens and reputation of the state above politics. 

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