Cuomo allegations prompt sexual harassment discussions

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Governor Andrew Cuomo is facing criticism for parts of his response to the second round of accusations made against him for sexual harassment. In his original statement, the governor mentioned that Charlotte Bennett is a sexual assault survivor, and said she was using her past experiences to help empower others in her future career.

Sexual assault advocates referred to the language from that statement as “outing” the victim. Since then, Bennett has spoken with multiple media outlets about her previous sexual assault, and the alleged sexual harassment from the governor.

Counselors say, in any case, the publicity that accompanies coming forward and the consistent conversations around the experience can be traumatizing.

“They are in charge of their story. And what happens in interpersonal violence dynamics is, power and control is often taken away from someone who experiences the trauma of violence,” explained Caitlin Powalski, Director of the Advocate department of Crisis Services.

Powalski also says the amount of control survivors have around a situation is crucial for anyone who has experienced this kind of trauma.

“And that choice includes how someone talks about their story, who they share it with, and how they share it,” said Powalski.

Advocates say often victims feel anxious to come forward because this kind of encounter is not talked about frequently.

“You’re not embarrassed to say you got rear ended in a vehicle. You’re not embarrassed to say you were in a bar fight. But you are embarrassed to say someone made you feel so uncomfortable physically, sexually or with their words,” said Allison Clement, a private therapist in Western New York.

Clement says cases of sexual harassment can often be hard to process for victims, especially considering the stigma that comes along with speaking out.

“It becomes a ‘he said, she said’. How do you prove that someone said something horrible to you? How do you prove someone made you uncomfortable with their words,” questioned Clement.

Crisis counselors stress the importance of getting help if you are in an uncomfortable situation.

The Crisis Services phone number is 716-834-3131 and more information about the National Sexual Assault Hotline can be found online.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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