OPINION: Sen. Kruse may be gone, but were lessons learned?
The sad and sordid spectacle of State Sen. Jeff Kruse is mostly behind us. The Roseburg lawmaker resigned last week from the Legislature following multiple accusations of unwanted physical contact with women.
But we hope the story isn't completely behind us. We hope there are lessons to be learned here: lessons on who spoke up, who listened, who acted, and who will learn from this mess.
Some will see Kruse's actions as falling into the category of "just creepy" and not threatening — full-body hugs, neck massages, touching women in passing on their backs or thighs. Kruse himself said he didn't want to change his behavior because he didn't know for sure which women had complained.
That amazingly tone deaf response is shared by too many men, who think it's OK to be "handsy" so long as you don't intend to be sexually violent.
Please, please, please: Can every man who followed this story understand the folly of that thinking?
If you are unsure if your physical actions are unwanted, err on the side of curtailing those actions.
Does that mean being introspective at all times, for fear of being perceived as a harasser? Well ... good. Be introspective. Be mindful of your behavior.
Does that make for an uncomfortable workplace? Not for the men who don't behave that way. And certainly not for women who no longer feel forced to either put up with it, or blow the whistle.
There also is a disquieting message to be had in who spoke up. It was two strong lawmakers, Sen. Sara Gelser of Corvallis, and Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward of Beaverton, who made their accusations public.
Good for them. They should be applauded for speaking up.
But we can't help wondering what would have happened if a legislative aide spoke up: someone hard-working, under-paid and under-appreciated. Would the story have gone as far as it did and would it have led to Kruse's resignation? Or would the aide have been quietly moved to some other job — throughout the nation, that's the usual and unfortunate reaction to women in less-powerful positions who blow the whistle on more powerful men. It's the women who get moved.
We'd like to think this story would have ended the same way, even if the two primary accusers didn't have the word "Senator" attached to their names.
But unfortunately we doubt it.
Most women in the workplace know a story about a colleague who was quietly moved after making an accusation, while the alleged harasser received a stern warning, or maybe nothing at all. It's commonplace.
We have an example coming to us out of neighborhing Washington County of an alternative reaction to accusations of harassment. Late last year, Lorraine Clarno, executive director of the Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce, received a letter from a female volunteer, saying she could no longer participate in chamber activities for fear of running into Jerry Jones Jr., then the chairman of the chamber board. The volunteer outlined a series of harassing incidents that occurred when, earlier, she had been employed by Jones.
Clarno didn't simply shrug her shoulders and say goodbye to a volunteer. She didn't attempt to move the volunteer somewhere innocuous.
She met with Jones and, in essence, told him to "get out."
Which he did.
Jones, it should be noted, is a prominent area businessman, with long connections to a major local company, and an elected official in his own right; he had just won re-election to the board of the Tualatin Hills Parks & Recreation District, months earlier.
By the time a second accuser had surfaced, a week later, Jones also resigned from the recreation district. And during it all, The Times (a Pamplin Media Group newspaper) asked the other elected officials there if they wanted to comment on the issue.
They declined to do so.
And that gets us to the last lesson we hope gets taken away from the #MeToo movement and the resignation of these powerful men.
Every young woman working or volunteering for the Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce heard Lorraine Clarno's forceful actions, loud and clear.
Unfortunately, every young woman working or volunteering for the recreation district heard the silence of those elected officials equally clearly.
More's the pity.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This editorial first appeared in The Times, a Washington County newspaper that is part of the Pamplin Media Group.