SARA Director Speaks on Sexual Harassment Allegations in the Media

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SARA Outreach Director Sheri Owen speaking with NBC29's Madison Carter SARA Outreach Director Sheri Owen speaking with NBC29's Madison Carter
Sexual Assault Resource Agency Outreach Director Sheri Owen Sexual Assault Resource Agency Outreach Director Sheri Owen

We're hearing more and more about men in powerful positions being accused of sexual harassment, but that behavior is not just happening in high profile work environments.

NBC29’s Madison Carter sat down with Sexual Assault Resource Agency (SARA) Outreach Director Sheri Owen to talk about how our community is responding to this wave of empowerment.

Harvey Weinstein, former president George H.W. Bush, Louis CK, Al Franken, Charlie Rose, the list of men accused of sexual misconduct goes on, and isn't done taking names.

Carter asked Owen, “we see all of these headlines in the media every day, but what does that look like here in our local communities and do you see that trickling down in any way?"

“The media is really sensationalizing everything that's going on because it’s all these high-profile people, and it makes it look like its only happened in the last six to eight months, and it hasn't,” Owen said.

The director said the headlines have people talking: “I think a lot of people that are sitting here watching the stories and saying 'why did it take so long for somebody to come out and say that? That's wrong, why did it take so long?’”

But, when the accused aren't in such visible positions, “survivors are afraid to come forward because they're afraid they're not going to be believed and they're afraid there is going to be victim shaming.”

Owen said she's noticing a shift in how people in our community are responding: “Why was it acceptable 20 or 30 years ago and today it’s not? That's another story. But the fact that it's the awareness, the heightened awareness, in the community is out there in our environment is wonderful.”

Carter asked, “What is the difference between sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace?”

“Well sexual assault, I mean look at the word assault, is sexual violence, it’s, you know, rape without the victim's consent. Sexual harassment could be unwanted touching, it could be... it's inappropriate jokes at the water cooler, it's asking for sexual favors to get some type of reward and that's common in the workplace,” Owen explained.

The Sexual Assault Resource Agency's hotline can be reached 24 hours a day at 434-977-7273.

Each county also has victim witness departments that can talk through options with you. Those numbers are:

  • Charlottesville - 434-970-3176
  • Albemarle County - 434-296-5807
  • Madison - 540-948-7550
  • Fluvanna County - 434-591-1985
  • Greene County - 434-985-8682 ext. 408
  • Augusta County - 540-245-5314