Utah’s #MeToo Moment

He called me into his office to discuss something unimportant. My boss, the owner of the small business where I worked at the front desk, would regularly hold meetings in his small office. I walked in; he stood next to me with his hand on the doorknob and closed the door behind me. As he walked from the door to sit at his desk, his eyes took their time slowly looking me over. I was in my early twenties and had never experienced such an obvious look-over—the way one might expect someone to look at a car they likedand I had certainly never been on the receiving end of such an overt pass from a superior. It was almost comical, something that I would have chided as unrealistic were it to happen in a movie.

While I was able to continue my work without incident for the duration of my time at that job, that slow scan — the unfortunate incident I’m positive he wouldn’t remember if asked — colored the rest of my time with my boss. From then on, meetings in the small office felt less comfortable, the office felt tighter, and I began questioning some of our interactions.

This was a single, small incident that I did not feel the need to report. Even still, it shifted something in me. I started to understand the stories I’d heard from women in my life about getting weird looks and comments from men. These stories, passed down as young girls grow up — stories that had been shared with me but not with my brothers — became a part of me.

I mulled over these stories on Tuesday morning as I sat for almost three hours at the Utah County Commissioners Meeting, waiting for my turn to speak. Kyle and I were there on behalf of Better Utah to call on Commissioner Greg Graves to resign from office following allegations of harassment and bullying. Graves, who had been previously accused of spanking a student and once used his campaign email to set up an account on AshleyMadison.com, a dating website for extramarital affairs, was accused last year of sexual harassment and retaliatory behavior in the workplace.

Graves, like many harassers, exhibited his most egregious behavior towards his coworkers when no witnesses were present, making some of the claims near impossible to prove. It is notable, however, that multiple witnesses made statements supporting claims about Graves’ outlandish, harassing, and bullying behavior. Furthermore, it is remarkable that his fellow commissioners, who have worked closely with him for a number of years, believe the accusations and have called for his resignation.

As I waited for my turn to speak, the allegations against Graves reminded me of the accusations of sexual harassment and assault against the former Provo Chief of Police, John King, by five women. It must have been incredibly difficult for those women to be ignored, to be told that they were worrying about nothing, to have to face their harasser day in and day out. Perhaps most maddeningly, it was discovered that Chief King had been forced out of his position as department director with the Baltimore Police Department for sexual harassment just one year prior to being hired in Provo. Somehow, the incident was not found in his background check.

Just as with Graves, the stench of sexual misconduct followed King from job to job, and his subordinates — usually women — paid the price for the system failing to stop these predatory men. The realities of harassment and assault can be terrible for the victims of such behavior, and there are women in Utah right now who are dealing with the repercussions.

It is incumbent on us as people who continually strive for a just and fair society to stand in solidarity with these women. This means we must work for change, which is why this Tuesday I’ll be back at the Utah County Commissioners Meeting to again call for Greg Graves’ resignation.

 

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