Jonathan Kraut: Former comedian, now senator, not laughing

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Former comedian Al Franken, who is now a U.S. senator, openly and honestly owned his past indiscretions and misdeeds by stating he is embarrassed, very sorry, and remorseful. Several ladies have come forward to accuse Franken of inappropriate touching, making suggestive comments, and even kissing them without consent.

As egregious as these allegations sound, Franken’s accusers are not claiming the same degree of misconduct is alleged against Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore, now former state Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, outed television personality Matt Lauer or disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Milder forms of sexual assault, such as those attributed to Franken, are based on the perception of the recipient. But Franken is not accused of serial predatory behavior, using his power and authority to coerce ladies into unwanted sex, or building an organization around habitual assaultive behavior.

Stalking and soliciting sex from those under the age of 18, forcible sexual coercion and kidnapping with sexual intent, on the other hand, are not only criminal acts, but do not rely on perception of the victim.

Besides creating a lifetime of trauma and misery for victims and their families, the perpetrators of these more serious behaviors do not think in the same manner as a guy who kisses a woman and then is rebuffed by her.

Not all sexual misconduct is morally equivalent. The key here is to determine if illicit conduct is based on “malicious intent.”

At times in family law and criminal court, but rarely in the court of public opinion, is malicious intent discussed or examined. To me, the frequency, number of victims, and methods used to coerce others is just as important as the unwanted behaviors.

My experience has taught me that those who have no malicious intent generally take responsibility for the perceptions of others, are ashamed of how their actions are perceived, and do not exhibit habitual or frequent acts of unwanted behavior. We could call this the Franken model.

On the other hand, stalkers, those whose lives revolve around abusing power, using threats and control over others, serial offenders, are of a different ilk. These creeps rarely take responsibility, tell the world they are innocent, blame the victim, and use their resources to silence those they the abuse. We could call this the Lauer and Weinstein model.

Al Franken’s recent press conference demeanor shows an acceptance of responsibly and sincere offer of apologies. Roy Moore, Raul Bocanegra, Matt Lauer, and Harvey Weinstein are not only accused of multiple and pervasive assaults, they proclaim innocence, admit only that they might have inadvertently created “a simple error in judgment,” and blame the victims.

I say good for the ladies for standing up and speaking up. I am so glad the “Me Too” campaign has encouraged thousands of victims of sexual assault to name names and identify the plethora of perverts holding political office and positions of power.

We finally just took a big step toward creating a predator- free society. We finally are making it OK for victims to come out of hiding and shame.

The next big step for us, something the U.S. Congress is considering and should pass, is a bill that would make illegal non-disclosure agreements that allow perverts holding office to hide their identities by using taxpayer money to buy off victims.

Can you believe it? Taxpayer money is used to hush victims of sexual misconduct?

It is our money. Our electeds do not have a right to give it away for their misdeeds. And they work for us and we should know their names. We should ask our state, county, and city officials to do the same.
First, taxpayers should not be on the hook for any misconduct, illegal behavior, or sexual assault by any elected official or government employee.

Second, the names of those public officials who make a deal to hush victims, in civil or family court, and even out-of-court settlements, should be named. In some cases, perpetrators should be required to register as a sex offender if malicious intent is present.

Finally, there should be a mandatory referral by civil and family courts to the criminal court system, even if a civil settlement is made.

Once out in the open, those creeps not deserving a political career and those misusing their riches and power will be exposed and will fall. Sexual abuse should have no safe harbor. The respectful treatment of others we hope is returning again as the rule of our land.

Jonathan Kraut directs private investigations and private security firms, is a published author, Democratic Party activist, and SCV Interfaith Council member. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or of other organizations.

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