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Opinion | This is why women don’t come forward

By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter

Alabama Political Reporter Editor in Chief Bill Britt and reporter/columnist Josh Moon have done a fine job exposing state Attorney General Steve Marshall’s lack of action when a woman who worked in his office was aggressively sexually assaulted by an assistant district attorney who also worked there.

Men who act badly and others often wonder why women don’t come forward after they are assaulted. Some, like those women who credibly accused former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore of inappropriate conduct, and my wife, Veronica, who was assaulted by the then publisher of the Anniston Star H. Brandt Ayers, where she got her first newspaper job, wait years (sometimes even decades) to tell their stories.

The story of Donna Dunlap is a great example why many women assaulted just don’t want to tell their stories.

Often, nothing happens, and the men doing bad things just keep doing bad things.

As Britt and Moon tell the story, Dunlap was regularly verbally sexually harassed by ADA Byron Waldrop. At the time, Marshall was an assistant  district attorney in Marshall County; Dunlap worked for him in the DA’s restitution division.

Not long after the assault, Marshall became the Marshall County DA and allegedly said he’d do something about Waldrop.

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But he did nothing, according to reports, except punish Dunlap.

I’m not going to rehash the stories. Read the accounts by Britt and the opinion essay by Moon. Both are well-documented with court records.

But despite coming forward early to her superiors, despite taking her claims to court, Dunlap got nothing. Not even relief from having to occasionally still work with Waldrop, who later became a judge in Guntersville.

“It was duly reported,” Moon writes. “No one disputed the facts of what occurred. The results? Nothing.”

Why don’t women report sexual and other kinds of harassment? Just look what Dunlap had to go through. She followed the right steps; but Marshall didn’t follow through.
Moon points out that women today are angry. Thus, the #metoo movement.

From what I gather after Britt’s original story was published Tuesday, many women around the state are angry at Marshall, too. As they should be.

What we need to hear is Marshall explain his actions. He was, after all, appointed attorney general, but now he’s running for a full term. He must answer to voters.

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And while Moon is correct – women are angry at a culture where powerful men believe they can assault young women and get away with it – there’s more than that.

My wife didn’t come forward because the laws protecting employees and women in such situations were pretty weak. Then, there’s the “he said, she said” culture where victims are often not believed.

Ayers left a string of spanking victims in his wake, but he was a powerful publisher at a well-respected newspaper. My wife and some of his other victims were just starting their careers. Veronica, too, was her daddy’s girl, and I have no doubt that had Veronica come forward, her father would have killed Ayers; then, it would have been her father who went to prison.

Thankfully, the #metoo movement is helping to give women who have been abused, even decades ago, the courage and cover to come forward.

This is a reckoning, and don’t think that it ended with Auld Lang Syne on Dec. 31, either.

As Dunlap’s tragic story underscores, it continues today. And will continue as we go forward.

Men in power who sexually assault women, and those who cover for those assaulters, like the editors at the Anniston Star and the district attorneys in Marshall County, must be held accountable.

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See, even when a victim like Dunlap does everything she’s supposed to do, to report the assault, to go to court, often the enablers help them get off scot-free. The assaulters go on to be big movie moguls or hosts at Fox News or the main anchor of the Today Show or chairman of a company that owns several newspapers. They go on to be attorney general of Alabama.

There’s now a petition to have Marshall removed as attorney general. Don’t know where this will lead – probably nowhere, like Dunlap’s complaint – but it’s out there. And the hashtag #firestevemarshall has started to make the rounds.

Alabama needs to hear from AG Marshall, though.

Or maybe better yet, we never need to hear from Marshall again.

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected].


Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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