Guest Columnist

Victims must be allowed to tell their own stories

Governor Kim Reynolds campaigns at Aurora Coffee Co. in Marion on Saturday, February 3, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Governor Kim Reynolds campaigns at Aurora Coffee Co. in Marion on Saturday, February 3, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

We are at a critical time in our nation’s history. Women who have experienced sexual harassment are finding the courage to come forward and share their stories so it doesn’t happen to anyone else.

On March 23, 2018, two women came to my chief of staff to report credible sexual harassment claims against David Jamison, director of the Iowa Finance Authority. They requested confidentiality, and we agreed to honor that request.

One of the women who came forward also gave my chief of staff a sealed written complaint for him to give to me. This letter outlined disgusting and abhorrent behavior from Jamison. Upon learning of this, I promptly fired him.

Several individuals have called on me to release the complaint and betray the victim’s trust. These individuals argue that we can keep the victim’s confidentiality by simply redacting her name, but it’s not that simple. The allegations outlined in the complaint are very specific, and releasing them could allow the victim to be identified on someone else’s terms.

To prevent that, the victim has decided to tell a part of her story on her terms. She’s redacted the letter. She’s chosen what she wants to make public and what she wants to be kept confidential. And she’s asked us to release that letter. I am again honoring her request and letting her tell her story on her terms.

“Her terms.” That’s what’s important. Not every woman comes forward in the same way. Some share with the public the details of what happened to them; others share their story with just a few. They want help, but they also want confidentiality.

I believe that victims of sexual harassment must be allowed to tell their story on their time, in their own way. It takes courage to come forward, and I don’t want any victim of sexual harassment to think twice about doing so.

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In all of this — in our anger at those who harass and demean women — we cannot forget about the victims. We cannot forget that this is their story to tell.

• Kim Reynolds is governor of Iowa.

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

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