Senate GOP sexual harassment report is very troubling

Senate GOP sexual harassment report is very troubling

Gazette Column
It is clear why Iowa Senate Republican leaders wanted to keep an internal investigation of sexual harassment claims secret. The rosy picture they attempted to paint of a better workplace environment is shattered. Amid public outcry and at the urging of Gov. Kim Reynolds, Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix performed another 180-degree turn in this harassment saga, which began when Kirsten Anderson, the Republican Caucus communication director, won a wrongful termination lawsuit. The case was settled in September for $1.75 million — taxpayer dollars from Iowa’s general fund. The acknowledgment of guilt is all the more troublesome when paired with internal investigation findings, begrudgingly released by Dix today in the middle of the extended holiday. We now know Dix’s assertions — that the Senate is no longer is plagued by sexual harassment, and that workers do not fear reporting…
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Reynolds, Upmeyer must take over sexual harassment investigation

Reynolds, Upmeyer must take over sexual harassment investigation

Gazette Column
Any hope that Iowa Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix is either prepared or willing to resolve ongoing sexual harassment issues at the Statehouse ended Tuesday. Dix, a Shell Rock Republican, sat down with reporters and did not directly answer questions relating to a wrongful termination lawsuit that has cost taxpayers more than $1.7 million, his own communications with the Senate Republican Caucus, findings from an ill-conceived internal investigation, reasons why a determination to hire a human resources director was nixed, or the single employment termination that came weeks after a court determined allegations of sexual harassment were true. Within a span of minutes, Dix once again repeated his court-dismissed claim that the firing of Caucus Communications Director Kirsten Anderson mere hours after she filed a formal sexual harassment complaint was…
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Iowa misses opportunity to curb teenage risky behavior

Iowa misses opportunity to curb teenage risky behavior

Gazette Column
DES MOINES — Sex educators who gathered here last week for an annual conference have reason to be concerned. Iowa’s family planning landscape has changed, making it more difficult for teens to get needed information and services. The Legislature’s decision last spring to forgo federal family planning money in favor of a state-run program that excludes health care organizations that offer abortion services provided a small window for officials to write rules and implement the system. Even now, three months after the system was supposed to be in place, questions remain. The new process is time-consuming, requiring those hoping to access services to first apply at the nearest Department of Human Services or Title X office and wait for approval. A significant portion of providers listed on the department’s website…
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Support sexual assault survivors

Support sexual assault survivors

Gazette Column
Recent social media initiatives have shown how prevalent sexual harassment and assault are, and that’s left some men (and women) wondering how they can effectively be supportive of survivors. The first thing to understand about violent crimes, and especially sex crimes, law enforcement and field experts told me this week, is survivors don’t respond in the same way. Some react defiantly, purposefully doing things that were part of the day they were attacked. Others become more cautious. Except for self-harm, there isn’t a necessarily “right” or “wrong” reaction to assault, even if the survivor later seeks counseling to modify reactive behavior. Sexual assault, as hopefully most of us already realize, has more to do with assault and violence than sex. The FBI defines “rape” as any non-consentual insertion of an object or…
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#NoMore hashtags to say #MeToo

#NoMore hashtags to say #MeToo

Gazette Column
How many sexual predators, victims of abuse and hashtags does it take before society comes to terms with “locker room talk” and the harm it causes? Sexual harassment and assault aren’t just “women’s issues,” they are a community problem. Women are not the only victims, and men are not the only perpetrators. Most studies indicate one in four women have been sexually assaulted, and one in 10 men. Break those statistics down further and you find that minority groups — women of color and transexuals, specifically — appear to be especially targeted for abuse. This week those who have purposefully buried their head in the sand were given another opportunity to observe the carnage as women and men told their stories. And, just like so many other times in recent…
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21 years of opening minds and doors

21 years of opening minds and doors

Gazette Column
When my middle daughter, now a high school senior, began to talk about pursuing a degree in biology or chemistry, I was initially surprised. I shouldn’t have been. She’s always loved math and science. Never, even as a small child, do I remember her telling me she’d like to be a teacher, homemaker or nurse — the top three options voiced by many of her female peers. Throughout middle and high school, her fascination with science and math has continued, which is unusual. While males and females show roughly equal interest at the elementary level, girls tend to abandon STEM as they age. Why is my daughter the exception instead of the rule? As much as I’d like to report her interest is due to something we did at home,…
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Bad teen behavior is a mirror reflecting

Bad teen behavior is a mirror reflecting

Gazette Column
Can you believe it? This and similar sentiments arrive by inbox and social media feed each time teens are caught behaving badly. And, for the record, yes, I totally believe it. The most recent national dust-up arrived courtesy of four male students at Westside High School in Anderson, S.C. The young men were participating in a football game against a neighboring school, Daniel High School. The game was part of the “Touchdown Against Cancer” series intended to fundraise on behalf of and bring more awareness to breast cancer. Ten students had each painted a letter on their chests. When they stood together, the letters spelled out, “Bump Cancer.” Four of the students — two seniors and two sophomores — rearranged themselves to spell the word “rape,” had their photo taken…
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Equality coalition names five Women of the Year

Equality coalition names five Women of the Year

Gazette Column
More than 130 local women have been honored over the years in conjunction with Women's Equality Day Women and men will gather Saturday night, on Women’s Equality Day, to add five more women to the ranks of those named Women of the Year. The women, nominated by friends and co-workers, were chosen because of their commitment to improve the lives of area girls and women. Their names will be added to a list of more than 130 who have been honored by the Women’s Equality Coalition of Linn County over the past four decades. Women recognized in 2017 are: [caption id="attachment_1303" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Those chosen as 2017 Women of the Year by the Women's Equality Coalition of Linn County are (beginning top left) Denise Bridges, Barbara Chadwick, Charrisse Cox, Monica Brown Challenger and Eden…
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Women’s equality, a work in progress

Women’s equality, a work in progress

Gazette Column
Linn County equality coalition adding five to list of Women of the Year Women across the nation will come together this month. They’ll recognize each other, applaud successes and resolve — as so many demonstration signs have more bluntly stated — to continue to fight for equality. Such celebration is an annual event in Linn County and other parts of Iowa, held each Aug. 26 in connection with Women’s Equality Day. That was the day 97 years ago when the 19th Amendment was certified, the culmination of an 80-year battle for women’s suffrage. The fight for the vote was marked, as I’m prone to highlight each year, with derision of the women seeking equality. Editorial boards from coast to coast issued dire warnings of chaos if women were welcomed into…
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How far has culture of sexism at Iowa Statehouse spread?

How far has culture of sexism at Iowa Statehouse spread?

Gazette Column
Been thinking there must be some deeply rooted cultural phenomenon that led Iowa lawmakers to propose — and, unfortunately, pass — bills that negatively impact women? Turns out, you’re right. A recent court case, brought by a former Iowa Senate Republican Caucus staffer, reveals the ugly details of sexual harassment at the Capitol complex in Des Moines. Charges by Kirsten Anderson, who was the communications director for the GOP caucus for five years, were confirmed in court testimony by other staffers, some of whom continue to work in the harassing and juvenile environment. One described an incident from more than 20 years ago, when she came back from lunch only to discover her computer’s screen saver had been changed to a topless woman jumping on a trampoline to the tune…
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