By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The difficult and often secret topic of sexual harassment and assault has been cast into the spotlight following claims against Hollywood heavy hitters.

It’s started a conversation in the Twin Cities.

“What is appropriate? Where are the lines when it comes to a power situation?” Teresa Thomas, director of Women in Networking, said.

Thomas says many members of WIN have experienced some type of sexual harassment or assault in the workplace.

“They’re realizing they’re not so alone in some of these situations they’ve had in their life. What they’re really hoping for is by having this issue come to light that we then address them and work on them and set higher standards and expectations for how we treat each other,” Thomas said.

Teri McLaughlin, executive director of MnCASA, which provides resources for sexual assault programs, believes what’s happening will impact the movement beneficially.

“We have an opportunity here to begin to change society to reduce the frequency of this going forward. I think this is a unique opportunity with the magnitude of reports right now,” McLaughlin said.

She says it’s predictable there are skeptics, but emphasizes we must believe victims that find the strength to come forward.

“When we start by believing, we absolutely create a space that safe for those victims,” McLaughlin said.

She believes we may be witnessing the beginning of what’s to come. McLaughlin compares what’s happening now to the Catholic sex abuse scandal.

“They didn’t come forward until they felt it was safe to do so when they saw somebody else wasn’t destroyed, wasn’t damaged that gives them some confidence to do so,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said while many are choosing to speak out, victims have the right to not tell their story. It’s very much an individual decision.


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