The question that must be asked - Must Read Alaska
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The question that must be asked

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

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  • It’s a shame that women are afraid to report sexual harassment and/or abuse. Not being believed is one reason they don’t, and having their reputation and lifestyle investigated is another. We are not obligated to believe anyone but should be respectful to all. It must be a horrible thing to be accused of something you did not do, especially of this nature. The problem is that we’ve believed the lie that boys have to go ‘sow their wild oats’ while a girl is considered a whore for the same behavior.

  • I agree with Susan. However, I would urge caution and make sure that the allegations are proven true. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there (men and women) who will do anything for their 5 minutes of fame and hoping to make a few bucks in the process. In addition, the political climate is added into the mix. I know many women who have suffered this kind of behavior, so the initial attitude should be to believe them and then check the facts.

  • In my time with the State I dealt with dozens of allegations of sexual harassment, coercion, or assault. If I include what we euphemistically called “undue familiarity,” sexual relations between someone with custodial authority and someone over whom s/he had custody, the number becomes hundreds. Very, very few were clear cut cases of a man in authority using that authority coercively to obtain sexual favors from a woman or in rare cases a woman over a man. Most started out consensually as a flirtatious relationship, some became a sexual relationship, but at some point the relationship went bad. Sometimes the woman had a change or heart and the man wouldn’t take no for an answer; those were rare but they did happen. Most times the woman simply changed her mind and decided that what had been an office romance was really sexual harassment. Those were extremely difficult to deal with. Generally, if the man had authority over the woman and there was any factual basis to the charge, he got disciplined or even dismissed, but government being as it is, some had friends in high places that protected them and Admin and Law had no independent authority to discipline or dismiss an employee in another department, or even our own though we had more influence there. If there wasn’t an authority relationship, we were much less likely to do more than a letter of warning or a minor suspension and some training unless there was some element of physical coercion. And sometimes, the whole thing was just a horizontal career move gone bad; yes, it happens. Too often the difference between an office romance and sexual harassment is whether or not the woman gets the job. That said, if the man had authority over her, even if it had been consensual, at least at one time, he was usually toast. If she was the type that announced the sexual harassment complaint with a press release, the man was almost always toast no matter the facts.

    LEOs and Corrections Officers were almost always toast if there was a factual basis for the complaint. Most of the women who come into contact with law enforcement or corrections in Alaska are veterans of the sex and drug trades and they are experienced at getting over on weak-minded men. In the old days before the Satch Carlson law made sexual contact a crime, the relationship would almost always get ratted out. We’d confront the officer and offer him a resignation, which he almost always signed. After the Satch Carlson law made it a crime, sexual misconduct almost never got ratted out – snitches get stitches – so discipline became less frequent, though I doubt sexual misconduct did.

    And before somebody brings up the National Guard allegations, most of that was a contrivance of the Alaska Dispatch to help defeat Governor Parnell. To the extent there was any substance to it, it is demonstrative of how little authority Admin and Law had in the Palin/Parnell Administrations. I know that my way of dealing with DMVA was to never believe a word they said and go find out for myself what was going on. I’m confident that the COS called the DMVA Deputy Commissioner about the allegations, and the DC, whose only qualification for the job was that he married well, told the COS that everything was fine, it was just some disgruntled employees, and they had it handled. Believing that went a long way towards costing Governor Parnell his office.

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