Victims of sexual abuse must know that public institutions support them and will not reject or attack those who come forward.
Seattle knows what Alabama is going through all too well.
We’re familiar with the awful cloud that descends when a politician’s alleged sexual assaults of children emerge ahead of an election.
Having been through this with Ed Murray, Seattle’s mayor until September, our advice is to dump Roy Moore, Alabama’s embattled candidate for U.S. Senate.
It’s abhorrent that Moore’s political allies are brushing aside substantial reporting by The Washington Post that he allegedly assaulted girls as young as 14 and courted teens early in his career.
This is about more than politics. At stake is the moral legitimacy of governing bodies.
Circling the wagons and dismissing allegations out of hand sends a terrible message to victims of childhood sexual abuse. Victims must know that public institutions support them and will not reject or attack those who come forward.
Similarities with Seattle’s recent scandal are striking. Five men alleged that Murray sexually abused them when they were teens, including a cousin and a foster son. In hindsight, our political establishment waited too long to confront the allegations.
Like Moore, Murray was a political fixture, a powerful member of the state Legislature before he became mayor. Allies were slow to call for his resignation or withdraw endorsements, even after multiple people came forward with allegations of childhood sexual assaults.
This defensive stance prolonged Murray’s departure. It tainted Seattle’s strong record of policy supporting assault victims. It also left the community in an awful limbo, with an alleged molester in a top office, still wielding enough clout to hold pole position on an upcoming ballot.
A month after the first story was published by the Times and a lawsuit by an alleged victim was filed in April, Murray withdrew his candidacy.
Yet he did not resign for five months, until the emergence of the fifth victim, a cousin who told of being molested by Murray as a teen.
Yes, Moore and Murray both strongly deny the allegations. However, accepting their denials requires one to dismiss recollections of multiple victims and others who corroborate details. Doubting victims should be less likely after the wave of first-person revelations of sexual assault in the entertainment industry.
Stories reporting allegations against Murray and Moore were not political ploys. They were difficult stories to report and for victims to tell. These stories require the public to judge not whether politicians involved should be jailed, but whether they are fit to lead.
An editorial by the Alabama Media Group — calling Moore “grossly unfit for office” — explained this standard:
“The seriousness of these incidents cannot be overstated. They should not be parsed with talk of statutes of limitations or whether proof exists. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is a consideration for the courtroom, not the ballot box. When choosing our representative before the rest of the world, character matters.”
Americans should understand these nuances by now because Murray and Moore are not the first alleged abusers and they won’t be the last.
Meanwhile, Seattle and the rest of the nation are counting on Alabama to prove that our moral compass still functions and that decency still has a chance against opportunistic politics.