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Why Cain's Accusers, Under Scrutiny, May Seek Strength In Numbers

Publication Date: 
November 10, 2011
The Christian Science Monitor
Stacy Teicher Khadaroo

Professor Deborah Rhode spoke with Stacy Teicher Khadaroo of the Christian Science Monitor on the Herman Cain sexual harrassment allegations and how the classic response by those who are accused of sexual harassment is to victimize the victim.

Once an employee of the National Restaurant Association, but not at the time that the behavior allegedly occurred in 1997, Ms. Bialek said Cain reached into her skirt and pushed her head toward his groin when they were in a parked car, and when she protested, she said Cain’s response was, “You want a job, right?”

Cain’s campaign sent out an e-mail outlining Bialek’s troubled financial history and suggesting she wants to gain financially from her claims, a charge she has denied.


“A classic response by those who are accused of sexual harassment is to victimize the victim and really up the ante for anyone who makes the charges –that includes drudging up anything you can find in the person’s background, whether or not it’s relevant to the claim,” says Deborah Rhode, a law professor at Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif. “Very few of us could stand up to the kind of scrutiny that’s oftentimes focused on women who come forward in these cases."


Professor Rhode acknowledges that some scrutiny can be legitimate, especially in cases where the accused is in a high-profile situation such as Cain’s presidential campaign. “If [the accuser has] a pattern of making false accusations, you want to know that, but other material that’s prejudicial should be not given a lot of credence,” she says.


“Each time one of these celebrated cases happens, it does raise public consciousness ... and serves as a useful deterrent ... to people seeking any kind of public position,” says Rhode of Stanford. “[Cain’s] not getting a free pass here. This is now the subject of the campaign debate, and it really does put some of the burden on people who say they don’t think it’s relevant [to the election] to explain why.”