Local women speak out about assault, harassment
In the wake of the October 5 New York Times article titled “Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades,” which reported that movie producer Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted over 50 women, people across the country took to the internet to raise awareness of the frequency with which sexual harassment and assault occur.
On October 15, actress Alyssa Milano asked women to tweet #metoo “so we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem,” though the phrase originated with the activist Tarana Burke. As of October 26, 1.7 million #metoo hashtags came from 85 countries across the world on Twitter.
Mono County District 5 Supervisor Stacy Corless also posted #metoo on her personal Facebook account. Corless said she posted because she felt it was important to raise awareness of “what a pervasive problem” sexual harassment and assault is. She said she posted because she has experienced both.
“There have probably been six times in my life when a man has exposed himself to me in public, and two of them were in Mammoth,” said Corless. “That just doesn’t happen to men.”
Corless first reported such an incident in Mammoth about fifteen years ago. She and a friend were running on Lower Sherwin Creek Road, at about 4:30 p.m. Just past the intersection of Sherwin Creek Road and Laurel Mountain Road, the pair observed a guy in the bushes, who appeared to be watching them. Corless said that as they approached, he stepped forward, exposed himself to the two women, and made it clear he was masturbating. Unsure of what else to do, Corless and her friend ran (quickly) back to their car and reported the incident to Mono County Sheriff’s Office, asking, what if it had been her daughter out for a run, alone?
Corless said the two Mono County Sheriff’s Deputies (both of whom were male) that responded joked openly about the incident and ultimately seemed to question the legitimacy of what she had seen. A few days later, a girl who was a student at Mammoth High School filed a similar report. The man was clearly out and about, exposing himself to women around town.
Corless said she suspected the individual got something out of making her see him masturbate. Perhaps it was about power. She noted that it’s not just women who are vulnerable to harassment. She mentioned a conversation with a colleague from another state in which she discovered that, as an African American man, he too was afraid to go for a run after dark. He was afraid of being profiled as a predator and the violent retribution that could entail.
“For me as a local, elected official, the question is, how can we make this better? I think we could start by making sure women’s perspectives are considered and honored.” She said that even elected officials are not immune to workplace discrimination. “Even today, there are a lot more men than women in county government across the State. Although most representatives are very respectful, there are pockets of the good ole boy club,” said Corless.