“Trauma as his shield”: Cuomo’s apology, defense criticized

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By JOCELYN NOVECK and MALLIKA SEN

NEW YORK (AP) — He said his actions had been misconstrued, his words misunderstood. He said it was cultural: He hugs, helium kisses, helium says “Ciao, bella.” He said it was generational: Sometimes helium lapses into “honey” oregon “sweetheart” oregon tells atrocious jokes.

But of each New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s responses to investigative findings that helium sexually harassed 11 women, 1 that astir disturbed galore women — peculiarly intersexual battle survivors and their advocates — was his usage of a household member’s intersexual battle to explicate his ain behaviour with an accuser.

“We volition not beryllium moved by Governor Cuomo’s attempts to usage the stories of survivors, including those helium harassed, arsenic a shield for his ain misconduct and maltreatment of powerfulness each portion claiming the harassment was a ‘misunderstanding,’” said an unfastened missive to beryllium released Thursday by the National Women’s Law Center and respective sex and subsister groups, demanding the Democratic governor’s resignation oregon removal.

Tarana Burke, the subsister and advocator who gave the #MeToo question its name, wrote successful an email to The Associated Press that “abusers, nary substance their ain idiosyncratic histories, bash not get to halfway themselves successful cases of abuse.”

“In these moments, survivor’s stories are the ones that should beryllium elevated,” Burke said. “There are 11 women, whose stories were corroborated, who experienced harassment astatine the hands of the governor. His family’s communicative does not exonerate him, and helium does not get to usage idiosyncratic else’s trauma arsenic his ain shield.”

The allegations that investigators said they corroborated ranged from inappropriate comments to forced kisses and groping.

In a taped connection Tuesday, Cuomo denied ever touching anyone inappropriately but apologized to 2 accusers, including erstwhile staffer Charlotte Bennett. He said helium asked Bennett astir her emotion beingness successful a misunderstood bid to assistance her header with trauma from a past intersexual assault. He spoke of a household member, astir the aforesaid age, who’d been sexually assaulted successful precocious school.

“I thought I could assistance her enactment done a hard time,” the politician said of Bennett.

Emily Martin, vice president for acquisition and workplace justness astatine the NWLC, said Cuomo was “suggesting that helium is simply a leader for survivors of intersexual assault, which is an particularly disturbing determination fixed each that this study found.”

“In immoderate ways it reminds maine of the ‘father of daughters’ comments that we perceive from truthful galore men successful power,” Martin said, “that we should instrumentality them astatine their connection that they attraction astir these issues based connected their idiosyncratic household relationships.”

Bennett herself called Cuomo’s apology “meaningless.”

“If helium were sorry, helium would measurement down. That’s however accountability works,” she told the AP instantly pursuing the remarks.

Elaborating Wednesday connected ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Bennett said: “He insinuated that survivors of trauma and intersexual battle can’t archer the quality betwixt mentorship and enactment and intersexual harassment itself, which is not lone insulting to maine but to each subsister who listened to him yesterday.”

Marissa Hoechstetter was 1 of those survivors. She said she was saddened by Cuomo’s notation to his relative’s battle “because I bash not privation to diminish those experiences.” But, added the advocator for betterment successful New York state, “two things tin beryllium true. You tin person idiosyncratic successful his household who experienced intersexual harm, and helium could besides person caused this harm.”

“You consciousness truthful gutted erstwhile you spot people’s trauma trotted retired to effort to explicate distant different person’s rightful voice,” Hoechstetter said.

Deborah Tuerkheimer, a Northwestern University instrumentality prof who specializes successful intersexual misconduct, saw Cuomo’s remarks arsenic portion of a larger strategy to discredit his accusers and prevention his governmental career.

“We often gully connected a acceptable of longstanding misconceptions astir abusers arsenic ‘monsters’ with nary redeeming qualities whatsoever,” Tuerkheimer said. “Whenever an accused antheral looks antithetic from this imagined monster, we’re much inclined to uncertainty the allegations against him. And accused men often strategically pat into this taste bias by highlighting, arsenic grounds of innocence, their champion qualities — including, perhaps, empathy for victims of intersexual assault.”

For Indira Henard, manager of the D.C. Rape Crisis Center, the lawsuit against Cuomo’s connection was simple: You can’t enactment survivors successful 1 condemnation and discredit them successful another.

“If you basal and judge survivors, past you judge survivors,” Henard said. “You don’t get to instrumentality isolated their story.”

Many besides questioned the effectiveness of different parts of Cuomo’s taped statement, which was accompanied by a slideshow of him hugging and kissing radical successful benign settings.

“I bash buss radical connected the forehead,” helium said. “I bash buss radical connected the cheek. I bash buss radical connected the hand. I bash clasp people. I bash connected juncture say, ‘Ciao, bella.’”

Evan Nierman, CEO and president of Red Banyan, a situation nationalist relations steadfast based successful Florida and Washington, D.C., called it “a bold move” by Cuomo “to asseverate that he’s immoderate benignant of a serial hugger and truthful nary of the allegations could beryllium existent due to the fact that helium hugs and kisses everybody.”

“There’s a large quality betwixt due carnal interaction and types of allegations that were levied against the governor,” said Nierman, “and truthful I don’t deliberation astir radical are going to conflate the two.”

Deborah Tannen, a Georgetown University linguistics prof who studies cross-cultural communication, noted Cuomo’s notation to his heritage. She acknowledged that Italian Americans thin toward casual touches successful conversation, “but that’s not touching intersexual places.”

“That is affable kissing,” she said. “So I deliberation that, too, is not truly applicable to the astir superior allegations.”

From situation connection experts to survivors, galore agreed that Cuomo’s governmental aboriginal seems unsalvageable. For New York and his accusers to determination forward, they said, the politician needs to beryllium held accountable.

“Simply put, helium needs to resign,” Henard said, adding that if helium doesn’t, helium should beryllium removed. “There’s nary coming backmost from this.”

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Follow Noveck connected Twitter astatine https://twitter.com/JocelynNoveckAP and Sen astatine https://twitter.com/mallikavsen.

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