Dallas Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson's Controversial Remarks About Sexual Assault

 In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein case, SMU ‘76 grad and Dallas Congresswoman, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, made some controversial remarks against the Hollywood producer.

 

Image via Cosmopolitan

 

Johnson, who has served in Congress since 1993, said in an interview with NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth, that she was disappointed in Weinstein’s actions, but she thinks women can be responsible for sexual assault happening.

The issue has become a topic of national conversation since dozens of famous actresses have accused film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault.

"I grew up in a time when it was as much the woman's responsibility as it was a man's — how you were dressed, what your behavior was," she said. "I'm from the old school that you can have behaviors that appear to be inviting. It can be interpreted as such. That's the responsibility, I think, of the female. I think that males have a responsibility to be professional themselves."

She said questions about a victim's attire or whether a victim's behavior invited abuse to contribute to a culture of silence and prevent victims from coming forward, especially if the perpetrator is in a position of power.

Rep. Johnson said she believes men bear responsibility for their actions and should be punished when they don’t behave professionally. But she also said she was disappointed women did not speak out sooner about Harvey Weinstein, and says her comments are meant to empower women to take action. "I think we also need to start talking about the power that women have to control the situation. There's law enforcement; you can refuse to cooperate with that kind of behavior,” she said. “I think that many times, men get away with this because they are allowed to get away with it by the women.”

Johnson also expressed disappointment that more women didn't come forward sooner, saying women need guidance to stand up against harassment and report it.

In a follow-up question in the same interview, Johnson insisted she meant for the comments to empower women. Johnson commented on the matter "regarding behavior and attire come from an old-school perspective that has shaped how some of us understand the issue."

With such a controversial topic and her comments, many criticized her remarks. Critics said her remarks were problematic and unsympathetic and she should apologize.

On Thursday, October 26, Johnson made a statement about the backlash. This is the whole statement:

“Sexual assault and harassment have no place in our society. This is something I believe deeply. And at each turn of my professional life, I have made it my mission to fight for women’s rights,” said Congresswoman Johnson. “I do not blame the victims of sexual assault for the actions of their assailants. I do acknowledge that my comments regarding behavior and attire come from an old-school perspective that has shaped how some of us understand the issue, but that does not detract from the fact that criminals need to be held accountable for their actions. I will never condone those who feel they can abuse the power of their positions to assault and harass women sexually, and I will always encourage victims to come forward so that we can hold these criminals accountable. Thanks to the testimony of brave women like Anita Hill, students on college campuses, and most recently the victims of Harvey Weinstein’s attacks, we can have a public dialogue about the systemic issues that we face as a society. Ultimately, we need to unequivocally support the victims of sexual assault and harassment as best we can while working to hold the perpetrators accountable for their actions. And supporting all women in this fight will continue to be my life’s work."