“Rape culture” down on the farm?

The Vermont Senate underwent a test of character this week. Most of that body proved equal to the task.

It’s not a perfect resolution as far as this Franklin County constituent is concerned, since it leaves us with only half of our allotted representation while taxpayers remain on the hook for Norm McAllister’s salary; but given the deficiency of guiding precedent, this was the best outcome that one could expect.

Even now, if McAllister is as concerned about his county’s representation as he claims to be, he could simply resign, allowing another Franklin County resident to fill the vacancy.

True to his selfish pattern, he refuses to do so, BECAUSE, he insists, he has done nothing wrong.

As Mr. McAllister draws down his salary and awaits his day in court, two glaring deficits present themselves.

First is the complete absence of legislative guidelines for dealing with an ethical crisis such as that which McAllister’s legal situation thrust upon his constituency.

I hope we can trust that this experience has convinced even the most reluctant senators that there is a real need to develop an ethics policy with specific guidelines, swift remedies and meaningful consequences to deal with those who grossly compromise the public trust.

It must be made very clear that legislative ethics are a matter quite apart from the course of criminal law; and that behaviors that may not rise to the level of criminal liability may still be determined to be in violation of the legislators’ oath of office, and therefore automatically disqualifying.

The second deficit is in public awareness that there may be a rural culture of sexual abuse out there in little old Vermont that isn’t paid nearly enough attention.

We’ve heard a lot about “rape culture” on college campuses and football teams, but the fact that Mr. McAllister regards himself as a social conservative but doesn’t even seem to understand that forced sex is assault, says a lot about the culture that enabled him, then elevated him to high office.

As I have said over and over again, a man doesn’t just wake up one day, at the age of sixty, and begin a life of sexual assault.

I’ve heard the whispers about one farming patriarch or another whose attitudes toward women are eye-raising, or even hair-raising.

This is the first time, in my memory at least, that the consequences have made headline news. One can only hope that the McAllister story will prompt Vermont journalists to investigate what shaped his attitudes toward women and sexual relations, and how widespread those attitudes may be.

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

8 thoughts on ““Rape culture” down on the farm?

  1. There were two other legislators living with McCalister while he was raping the intern. According to news reports she was “sleeping”in his room. Why the hell hasn’t this become and issue?

  2. Oh, I rather think it will! Wait until the trial to see that particular ball of yarn unwind.

    Here on GMD, we have already called for their constituents to hold them accountable.

  3. Character test or just a quiz
    With their vote to suspend, the VT State Senate managed to do only what had to be done to get the institution moving again. And this minimal effort produced some toe curling, cringe inducing comments on the the vote to suspend . Including some foolishness about Jesus and /or Socrates death by the “will of the majority” or some such thing http://thevpo.org/2016/01/07/the-apotheosis-of-norm/

    A measure of the character of the Vt Senate will be how aggressively they move to set up a permanent system capable of handling the next ethics storm. You know if only to avoid the next Jesus/ Socrates death.

    1. As I said, MOST conducted themselves well under the circumstances; but a significant number DID give their constituents good reason not to reelect.

      Of course I still think it was too little and too late.

  4. Mcormick equating McAllister with Jesus Christ and Socrates shows him completely devoid of historical fact and/or understanding. I suggest he at least Wiki his info, which is probably the only source reading level could comprehend. As another commenter said somewhere, why is he even in the senate. I must agree.

    One of the more disturbing aspects of this debacle is the female child-like “assistant”, present with Good Ol’ Norm in the senate and on floor in full view of lawmakers. ‘Assistant’ not even an official page or intern with seemingly no action taken or questions asked. Seems like this could have easily been ended, as it is an open door for abusive behavior, by making sure that only those officially registered would be valid. I think senator Baruth was involved in making this finally happen thereby protecting the others there presently and in the future. Surely any of us, esp lawmakers, also fellow citizens should be capable of viewing a young person as our own.

    McAllister also made a sickeningly lewd comment to a female fellow lawmaker in session, aka sexual harrassment. What is clear from these actions is that his shameless behavior conducted w/o fear of consequences and flagrant disregard for the respect of citizens and decorum involved in lawmaking.
    Difficult to believe at least some fellow lawmakers were not aware of this behavior. Blind eye, deaf ear is tacit approval.

    Most union work environments except for like say, VT AOT this is unacceptable and does cost violators their jobs. They often return minus the offending behavior but it is taken very seriously. Should be strictly enforced in any environment using public funds. While it is the law, in reality employers quite often are loathe to take action as they don’t want to lose the offending employee(s) who are often friends. Public servants & employees have a higher bar and are in fact employed by us.

    Clearly defined ethics guidelines with an enforcement mechanism would end all of this and send a clear message including clearly defined statute. While they’re at it ending the conflict-of-interest dealmaking. And end the revolving door between government, lobbyists and private sector employees which have poisoned the democratic process and cost us millions – at the very least. There should be three or four years between the changing of the hats as it would end the lure of serving to benefit primarily ones own interests.

  5. I’ve known Senator McCormack for decades.

    I disagree with his comments about this case, but he does not deserve the kind of abuse some commentators have showered on him here. He is an intelligent, well-educated and thoughtful man and has served the State well during his senate tenure.

    1. I imagine (since I don’t know him) Longtime Senator McCormack can handle having his remark called foolish by me.

      As for comments others make…well, I cringe but hope he has developed a thick skin by now and can handle those that are too harsh.

  6. Analysis provided by John Walters aka The VPO cannot be improved upon:
    “McCormack appears to blame the Jews for the death of Our Lord and Carpenter. That’s wrong. The killing of Jesus was carried out under Roman law by Roman means; his crime … was threatening the peace and order of the Empire … wasn’t democracy or the will of the majority … an autocracy inciting a mob to serve its own interests.

    Now, Socrates. He committed suicide after a trial by jury. The jury happened to consist of five hundred Athenians, but it was a trial nonetheless. His example is irrelevant to McAllister’s Senate proceeding.

    Oh, a couple more little problems. Norm McAllister lost his Senate seat. Temporarily. Jesus and Socrates LOST THEIR LIVES. The stakes are not comparable. Also, Jesus and Socrates’ real offenses were matters of speech and belief. McAllister’s are a wee bit more sordid.

    Okay, so McCormack’s comparison was not only a wild exaggeration, it was also wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong.”

    There are no GMD comments which rise to the level of “abuse” imho, though a family member, or supporter and friend of the senator such as yourself may construe them as such. An individual “well educated” on the subject at hand would not have come to McCormacks conclusions hence the controversy. Come on, compares to Jesus Christ, most selfless to ever walk the earth, supporter of woman in a culture condered 1/2 step above slaves? I would call McCormacks comments “abuse” of JC.

    Antics displayed could be funny if not coming from lawmakers most of whom know the man far too well.

    McCormack comparing McAllister to Jesus Christ and Socrates waay over the top which is the context for the comments. Nonplussed by outpouring of sympathy from senators McCormack & Foley wiping away a tear while claiming to “worry about Norm”.

    I tend to worry about the said victims and unseen invisible victims which our laws should protect and primary topic here.

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