Candice Blain Weighs In On Celebrity Sexual Misconduct for CNBC

sexual misconduct

Sexual misconduct allegations against celebrities has received much attention in the last few years.  And so, inevitably, many are now asking whether and when it is appropriate for celebrities that faced or admitted to allegations to return to the public eye.

I recently offered my opinion on what needs to happen in a piece by CNBC: How comedian Louis CK can get back on track after misconduct claims.

Louis CK has more to do.

As far as whether Louis CK is ready to make a comeback, unquestionably, there is more he needs to do.

That much is clear because in his performing his set last week, Louis CK was all too silent about his sexual misconduct.

Now, admittedly, his is a tricky line to walk—had he launched right into dismissively joking about it, we would (rightly) conclude that he was not taking it seriously enough.  But, insensitive jokes are a long way from outright ignoring what happened.  And on the spectrum of ways to deal with it, neither extreme is appropriate—and either approach shows he has more work to do.

I think it’s important to add here that as we collectively consider the appropriateness of Louis CK’s reentry onto the scene—as well as others who are preparing to do the same—we need to make an effort to understand that this discussion is not all about the person accused.  The whole discussion should not be centered on whether the public is “punishing” or “penalizing” him.  In fact, when we talk about these events, which one side experienced as abusive, we should attempt to do so with a focus on the victim—so How is the victim impacted? How can we serve the victim’s best interest? How can we prevent the creation of another victim?

If, on the other hand, we continue to examine every allegation of sexual misconduct with our lens squarely and exclusively on the accused, then we are not going to get far in terms of evolving our way of thinking.  We must move beyond considering everything from the perspective of the accused.

So, in terms of what Louis CK needs to do, I would say he needs to find a way to help.  And, I would add, since he has shown that he intends to return to the limelight—he should use his platform in service of that purpose.

Criminal charges matter—but they are not the only thing.

Assuming the claims against Louis CK that we already know about represent the entire universe of (or at least the worst of) the allegations against him, Louis CK is certainly, logistically, in a better position than celebrities facing criminal charges, say Weinstein.  By that, I mean a looming prison sentence can certainly interfere with a person’s comeback plans.

But, I think it would be a mistake to analyze whether a person is entitled to a comeback based on the existence, degree, or quantity of criminal laws violated or whether charges were pressed.

The simple reality is that Louis CK caused harm to others.  And his belated public admission of sexual misconduct did not undo it.  This is what should matter in the calculus of whether he now has room for a comeback.

Whether charges are filed has no bearing on whether sexual misconduct took place.  In some instances, a person’s reputation may be damaged due to an accusation, yes.  But that damage may actually be warranted, even in situations where no charges were filed.  The absence of a criminal charge does not necessarily mean innocence.

That being said, if a celebrity is maliciously and falsely accused of doing something—particularly if that something would make people hate or ridicule him—he/she certainly has recourse.  The laws in this country recognize that a person’s reputation is a thing of immense value.   This is why slander and defamation suits exist.

The focus should be on victims.

The problem with abuse like the kind alleged against Louis CK, is that a large part of what was taken away from these women is their dignity.  Even their spirit.  Those are not easily returned.

For example, one of Louis CK’s victims (Abby) reportedly said of her experience with Louis CK that it  “left her deeply dispirited” and “was one of the things that discouraged her from pursuing comedy.”

In the law, we talk about the goal being to put victims back to the place they would have been if the wrong had never been committed.  Presumably, Louis CK cannot give back what he has taken from these women.

What he can do, however, is through his work, help increase the chance that others will not find themselves having to choose between their dignity and their success or livelihood.

I would suggest that Louis CK put everything into working toward that.  

This is about Power.

In trying to understand what remains to be done and whether Louis CK’s comeback comes too soon, I think it is essential to remember what made his sexual misconduct possible.

The situations involving Louis CK that these women experienced as abusive were made possible, to some extent, because Louis CK had power; whether it came from prestige, fame, or money, he had power over them.

And now we know that, for whatever reason, Louis CK did not wield his power responsibly.  Instead, he abused it.

I believe everybody deserves a shot at redemption. And it is true that Louis CK admitted what he did.

But let’s not forget that not too long before Louis CK admitted it, when confronted with accusations, he denied it.  With full knowledge that these women were telling the truth, Louis CK publicly dismissed these women’s claims as being just “rumors”—and refused to address them claiming it would “make it bigger and . . . make it real.”  This is the kind of lie that causes great damage to victims, to their reputations, to their spirits, and to their lives.  What Louis CK did was wrong, and extremely harmful.

So Louis CK had power. And with it, he harmed people.

That is what this conversation is about.

We could talk about it in terms of what he still owes, and whether he has done enough, and whether he deserves to be shunned, but that would be missing the point.

Given what we know about what Louis CK did with power, we need to be asking whether it makes sense to give it back to him.

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Revenge Porn is a Crime in Georgia

Revenge porn is a crime in Georgia – it is illegal.

O.C.G.A. § 16-11-90 states:

(1) Electronically transmits or posts, in one or more transmissions or posts, a photograph or video which depicts nudity or sexually explicit conduct of an adult when the transmission or post is harassment or causes financial loss to the depicted person and serves no legitimate purpose to the depicted person; or

(2) Causes the electronic transmission or posting, in one or more transmissions or posts, of a photograph or video which depicts nudity or sexually explicit conduct of an adult when the transmission or post is harassment or causes financial loss to the depicted person and serves no legitimate purpose to the depicted person.

Whether you directly do it yourself – or cause it to be done to another person – it is a crime.

Revenge porn is a crime

Sharing intimate images of another person is a misdemeanor the first time.  Do it again, and it becomes a felony.

It is a crime in Georgia.  If you violate this law you can be arrested and fingerprinted.

 

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Workplace Inequality and Injustice – TIME’S UP

Workplace inequality

Our law firm has joined TIME’S UP in their fight against workplace inequality and injustice by becoming a member of The National Women’s Law Center’s Legal Network for Gender Equity.

Legal Network for Gender Equity fights Workplace InequalityTIME'S UP on workplace inequality and injustice

TIME’S UP is a unified call for change from women in entertainment for women everywhere.

From movie sets to farm fields to boardrooms alike, we envision nationwide leadership that reflects the world in which we live.

Powered by women, TIME’S UP addresses the systemic inequality and injustice in the workplace that have kept underrepresented groups from reaching their full potential.

Learn more about the TIME’S UP project and mission.


TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund Helps Fight Workplace Inequality

In addition to providing online information and resources, TIME’S UP has set up a legal defense fund to aid in the fight against workplace inequality and injustice.

TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund wiill subsidize legal support for individuals who have experienced sexual harassment or related retaliation in the workplace.

The Fund is housed at and administered by the National Women’s Law Center, an established, national women’s rights legal organization.

A network of lawyers and public relations professionals across the country will work with the Center’s Legal Network for Gender Equity to provide assistance to those who have experienced harassment or retaliation.

Access to prompt and comprehensive legal and communications help will mean empowerment for these individuals and long-term growth for our culture and communities as a whole.

Legal Representation for Workplace Inequality and Injustice

Our law firm specializes in helping victims, including victims of workplace discrimination, retaliation, and harassment.

Workplace sexual harassment is unlawful in all states under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal law which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender.  (It also prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of other protected traits, such as a person’s race, national origin, or religion.)

Under this and other sexual harassment laws, an employer is said to have discriminated when an employee is subjected to severe or pervasive harassment at work on the basis of sex.

If you are a victim of workplace discrimination, harassment, retaliation, inequality, or injustice, we may be able to help.

Contact us now.

Blain | Online Forum & Community

Discuss issues relating to current gender-related and social justice issues, such as workplace sexual harassment, cyber abuse, and sexual assault & rape at our online forum & community.


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Landlord Sexual Harassment – What To Do

landlord sexual harassment

As we know, sexual harassment isn’t limited to Hollywood.  The problem is insidious. It can be found wherever an imbalance of power exists, including in landlord-tenant relationships.  Landlord sexual harassment is a form of housing discrimination. It is unlawful. And it happens all too frequently.

The online publication Mogul released an important piece on what you should know and what you can do if you find yourself the victim of sexual harassment by your landlord.

You can read the full article at:

What to do when you are sexually harassed by your landlord.

Report Landlord Sexual Harassment

As outlined in the Mogul piece, you should report sexual harassment within one (1) year of its occurrence by filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

HUD is responsible for enforcing violations of the Fair Housing Act, a federal law prohibiting housing discrimination.

You can get the Housing Discrimination Complaint Form to download, complete and return, or you can complete it online.

Or you can write HUD a letter, or call them.

HUD’s Regional Office for Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee is located in Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta Regional Office of FHEO
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Five Points Plaza
40 Marietta Street, 16th Floor
Atlanta, Georgia 30303-2806

(404) 331-5140
(800) 440-8091
TTY (404) 730-2654

If You Have Been Assaulted Call 911

If you are in danger (or perceive that you are), don’t mess around — call for help.

Find Somewhere Else to Stay

As noted in the article, even if you still have time left on your lease, if you continue to suffer landlord sexual harassment, it might be in your best interest to leave as soon as possible.

Document, Document, Document

Many people don’t report sexual harassment because they don’t know how to prove it happened. Some ways you can prove your case include:

  • Setting up surveillance video.
  • Contacting witnesses who have seen the harassment.
  • Creating a paper trail by documenting everything, and reporting the misconduct to the police or your local fair housing organization.

Hire a Lawyer

If you need help in putting a stop to landlord sexual harassment or if you have been a victim, you can get help from an experienced sexual harassment attorney.

 

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Posted in law

Cyberbullying Laws: Legal Solutions for Victims of Cyber Abuse

Revenge porn is a crime

Cyberbullying Laws & Legal Solutions

While cyberbullying laws are presently very few and far between, legal solutions do exist for victims of cyber abuse— including cyberbullying, cyber harassment, and cyberstalking.

Understanding Cyberbullying

Cyber abuse in its various forms, which includes cyberbullying, cyber harassment, and cyberstalking, is increasingly recognized as a significant public health concern.

To understand what cyber abuse is and what it can look like, you should focus on what is being done and how it is being done.  All forms of cyber abuse involve two main components:

(1) a type of behavior, the conduct and (2) a means of communication, the tool.

The Conduct.

The first element for identifying cyber abuse is recognizing the type of conduct that is involved.  This is, essentially, bullying.

The conduct may consist of threats, harassment (i.e., conduct that is repeated over time), or other actions taken to embarrass or humiliate the victim.  Cyber abuse may also involve nonconsensual image-sharing (i.e., ‘revenge porn’).

Cyberbullying involves conduct directed toward a person or persons for the purpose of causing harm.

The Tool.

The second component of cyberbullying involves the tool used: Technology.

The type of technology a perpetrator may use can vary from case to case.

A perpetrator may utilize the Internet or a cell phone.  The perpetrator may post images or information on social media, send text messages or emails, or utilize other forms of technological communication.  The perpetrator may combine any of these.

The options are limited only by the perpetrator’s imagination.

Cyberbullying vs. ‘Traditional’ Bullying

It is important to note that the distinction between cyberbullying and so-called ‘traditional’ bullying is not merely a technical or inconsequential one.

In some ways, yes, it is true that cyber abuse is old-fashioned bullying and abuse just transposed to a new kind of media.

But there are implications to a perpetrator’s use of technology as the chosen tool for abuse that makes the bullying even more harmful—and the resulting damage potentially far more severe.

Features of Cyberbullying

The use of technology enables a perpetrator to inflict greater harm on a victim—and to do so with much less effort.

The potential for greater harm from online abuse flows directly from several factors related to use of technology as a communication device.  These factors include:

  • Anonymity: Through use of technology, the perpetrator is able to interact, communicate, or publish anonymously.
  • Audience: Using technology enables the perpetrator to reach a far greater audience—which means the ability to embarrass or humiliate the victim is exponentially multiplied.  And a larger audience can result in the creation of a mob mentality in which, like a snowball rolling downhill, the abuse can take on a life of its own as more and more perpetrators get involved.
  • Avoidance: Through use of technology, a perpetrator may remain insulated from having to personally confront or interact with a victim—or avoid witnessing the victim’s true suffering that results from the perpetrator’s actions.
  • Access: As a result of the relative ease of communicating through technology and the ability to communicate 24 hours a day means that a perpetrator’s conduct faces virtually no external restraints.  As a result, a victim may experience abuse that feels unrelenting.

Cyberbullying Methods

Some methods commonly employed by perpetrators of online abuse include:

  • Flaming. Engaging in aggressive exchanges with angry and vulgar language.
  • Harassment. Repeatedly sending nasty, mean, and insulting messages.
  • Denigration. Gossiping or spreading rumors about a victim to damage his/her reputation or relationships.
  • Impersonation. Pretending to be someone else while sending or posting material to create trouble or danger for the victim, or to damage his/her reputation or relationships.
  • Outing. Sharing a victim’s secrets or embarrassing information or images online.
  • Trickery. Convincing a victim into revealing secrets or embarrassing information, and then sharing it with others.
  • Exclusion. Engaging in conduct with the aim of intentionally excluding a victim from groups or social activities.
  • Cyberstalking. Placing a victim under surveillance, or causing them to feel that they are being watched, followed, monitored, or surveilled.  It typically involves repeated, intense harassment and denigration that includes threats or creates significant fear.

Cyberbullying Victims

Cyber abuse victims span all ages and demographics.

The term ‘cyberbullying’ is typically used when the person experiencing the online abuse or aggression is a minor or relatively young.  When the victim is an adult, the behavior may be referred to as ‘cyber harassment’

That being said, anyone can be a victim.

There are, however, certain risk factors that may increase the likelihood that a person may experience online bullying or harassment.

In the U.S., the likelihood of being a victim of cyberbullying or cyber harassment are increased by:

  • young age
  • female gender
  • LGBTQ
  • a visible disability or impairment.

Why is Cyber Abuse a Problem?

When they first learn of cyber abuse, many people’s initial reaction is to dismiss it as a non-problem.

Why does it matter?’ They may say.

Or they might suggest that the problem can easily be solved if the victim just ‘logged-off’—i.e., no longer interacts with others online.

But, logging-off is hardly a solution.

In fact, to simply opt-out from engaging in online interactions is virtually (excuse the pun) impossible.

Quite simply, in this day and age, permanently logging-off is impossible.  Online interactions are interwoven into every aspect of our modern lives.  And this reality is even more pronounced among teens and youth.

But, more importantly, logging off—even if it were possible—does nothing to solve the problem for several reasons.

First, cyberbullying and cyber harassment are not limited to online interactions.  As discussed above, any form of technology may be used as a tool for cyber abuse.

Second, even if the cyber abuse at issue is, for a particular victim, only occurring online, the damage created continues to exist regardless of whether the victim interacts online.  In other words, given that cyber bullying and harassment may center on matters published online that are witnessed by others, logging off would only solve the problem if everyone else in the world were to log off too.  Obviously, that will not happen.

Cyberbullying is a problem that follows its victims.

Harmful Effects

We should all care about cyber abuse because the problem is pervasive, it is often severe and, importantly, the effects can be highly damaging.

In fact, the effects may be even more severe than so-called traditional bullying.

Cyberbullying and cyber harassment victims often face increased absenteeism, anxiety, depression, poorer grades in school, damage to physical health and well-being, self-esteem, sleeping issues, social anxiety, and more.

And most frightening of all, too many victims—believing that there is no other way to escape—may ultimately resort to suicide.

Cyber abuse can be an urgent and devastating problem.

Cyberbullying Laws & Legal Solutions

There are few cyberbullying laws presently on the books in the United States. But several laws and principles exist that may be leveraged to combat cyberbullying, cyber harassment, and cyberstalking.

Identify the Perpetrator.

I always tell my clients that the first key in any cyber abuse case is to definitively ascertain the identity of the perpetrator.

In many cases, the victim often has a good idea who the perpetrator or cyberbully may be.

But to invoke cyberbullying laws that may offer protection against online abuse, a simple hunch is not enough.  Instead, to move forward with legal remedies, you will need to establish or confirm the culprit’s identity with proof.

If the evidence in your possession is not enough to identify the perpetrator, you should consider hiring an expert with experience in conducting cybersecurity-related investigations.

1. Criminal Laws.

Several states have enacted criminal cyberbullying laws; explicitly prohibiting behavior that can properly called cyber abuse.

Georgia, for instance, makes it a crime to harass, molest, threaten, or intimidate anyone through electronic communication or by phone.  Several other states have similar laws.

A victim may seek enforcement of these criminal laws by reporting the abuse to local law enforcement authorities.

2. Education Laws.

When dealing with cyber abuse arising in or around school, a legal avenue to explore is whether any education-centered cyberbullying laws apply.

In Georgia, for instance, public education laws specifically prohibit bullying that involves:

use of data or software that is accessed through a computer, computer system, computer net­work, or other electronic technology of a local school system.

O.C.G.A. § 20-2-751.4

A student that violates this or other education-centered cyberbullying laws may face stiff penalties—including removal from the school and assignment to an alternative school.

3. Workplace Laws.

Depending on the substance of the harassing communications, the victim may be able to rely on employment-related laws to combat cyber harassment.

For example, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (a federal anti-discrimination law) prohibits conduct that is severe or pervasive enough to interfere with a person’s employment, if the harassment is because of race, gender, national origin, religion, or disability.

If the victim is being harassed because of one of those protected traits, and the perpetrator is a co-worker of the victim or the victim suffers employment-related adverse actions due to the harassment, an employer may have a duty to step in and take steps to stop the harassment or redress the negative employment-related effects of the harassment.  If the employer fails to either, as appropriate, it may be held liable.

4. Restraining Orders.

Most states authorize a victim to obtain a restraining order or a protective order to guard a victim from threatening, intimidating, or harassing communications.

Georgia, for example, authorizes courts to issue a restraining order when a perpetrator engages in conduct such as placing a person under surveillance or engaging in contact with a person “for the purpose of harassing and intimidating” the victim.

Importantly, this law expressly defines contact to include electronic communications:

the term ‘contact’ shall mean any communication including without being limited to communication in person, by telephone, by mail, by broadcast, by computer, by computer network, or by any other electronic device.

O.C.G.A. §16-5-90.

While restraining order statutes like these are useful precisely because of the broad definition of that key word contact—the same word also reveals a clue as to a limitation on the usefulness of restraining orders in cyberbullying cases: contact.  In many cases, cyber abuse includes indirect harmful communications; the negative communications swirl about and center on the victim, but the perpetrator does not directly contact the victim.  In these cases, obtaining a restraining order may be challenging, even if the perpetrator is known and identified.

Depending on the case and through careful case preparation, this problem can be avoided—and the victim may successfully secure a restraining order even though the perpetrator avoided direct contact with the victim.

5. Civil Lawsuits.

In addition to proceeding under cyberbullying laws, online abuse may also form the basis of a successful civil lawsuit.

A civil case stemming from online harassment or other forms of cyber abuse may proceed under traditional theories of liability, such as intentional torts or negligence.

For instance, a known and identified perpetrator may be directly and personally liable for intentional torts they commit.  For example, a cyberbully may be sued for libel/defamation or intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Entities not directly engaging in acts of cyber abuse may also be held liable in civil lawsuits.  Cases against these third-parties proceed under traditional theories of liability and negligence.  For example, a social media platform or other online publisher may be liable for failing to prevent foreseeable injuries to a victim or for the company’s failure to intervene when it knew or should have known that harm would result.

Hire an Experienced Lawyer

If you are a victim of cyber abuse, cyberbullying laws exist that may apply to your case and legal solutions are available.

Contact a lawyer who is experienced in cyberbullying laws and cyber abuse cases—including cyberbullying, cyber harassment, and cyberstalking.  An experienced attorney can help you navigate the issue and pursue legal remedies that may be available to you.  It is important to get help as early as possible.

Most importantly, remember: Help is available.

You can recover from this.

Contact Blain LLC

 


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