The cost of coming forward: What sexual assault survivors face when speaking out

(USA Today)

More and more women have felt comfortable telling the stories of abuse and harassment in the wake of the #MeToo movement. But coming forward still carries the risk of retaliation, particularly when someone is a public figure.

Shaunna Thomas, co-founder and executive director of women’s advocacy group UltraViolet, said the women publicly accusing Cuomo, the New York governor, face extreme risk in the process.

Cuomo, she said, has for years been seen as untouchable. Publicly accusing someone at that level of power comes with emotional and mental ramifications, but also with the added risks of being attacked online, enduring campaigns aimed at undermining their credibility, and possibly being fired from a job or not hired for a job because of the notoriety they take on.

“There’s no real path to holding him accountable in a way that doesn’t damage you as the outer,” Thomas said. “It’s going to take a tremendous amount of courage and willingness to put yourself in a position of being attacked by a well-oiled government machine that has been put in place to protect Gov. Cuomo his entire career.”

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Advocacy Group Accuses Sheryl Sandberg of Turning Facebook Into ‘Right Wing Playground’

(Newsweek)

Sheryl Sandberg is under fire for her work as Facebook Chief Operating Officer during the 2016 election. Women’s advocacy group UltraViolet is backpedaling their previous support for Sandberg ahead of the upcoming election.

The press release, titled “UltraViolet Says Facebook is Powering Violence that Harms Women” accuses the COO of Facebook of turning the social media platform into a “right-wing playground.”

UltraViolet co-founder and executive director Shaunna Thomas elaborated: “In 2012, UltraViolet members stood up for Sheryl Sandberg and called for her to be added to Facebook’s board of directors – thinking she was a smart and empathetic leader who cared deeply about improving the lives of all women. We were wrong.”

Adding: “Sheryl Sandberg is in a position where she could have been a champion for women facing attacks on Facebook, but she and Mark Zuckerberg have turned Facebook into a right-wing playground where misogyny, racism, disinformation, violence, and hateful conspiracy theories grow and spread. Women deserve better.”

Thomas shared the quote on Twitter. “Sheryl Sandberg tells women to ‘lean in’, and when they do, they are attacked on the platform she helps run,” Thomas wrote. “We’ve had enough. Look out for an ad from us this weekend calling her and Facebook out and demanding changes NOW.”

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Advocates worry Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation could undercut efforts to curb sexual assault

(The 19th)

“The point of view that’s forwarded is that sexual assault is a function of individual behaviors — it’s one bad apple — but that institutions have no role to play, that they’re not liable,” said Shaunna Thomas, the executive director of Ultraviolet, a progressive group that advocates for gender equity. “It is not a function of a bad apple here and there. It is everywhere, and it is systems and institutions enabling that behavior and protecting and in some cases elevating sexual predators to positions of more power.”

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Progressive women’s groups launch effort to combat disinformation about Harris

(NBC News)

Progressive women’s groups are putting millions towards a campaign to disrupt disinformation and sexist, racist attacks against Senator Kamala Harris — an escalation of their attempts to combat gendered and racially biased narratives around the Democratic vice presidential nominee.

Ultraviolet — in concert with other prominent groups like Emily’s ListBlack PAC, and Color of Change — formed the Women’s Disinformation Defense Project, an amalgamation of groups collectively set to throw more than $20 million into ads, research, and offensive strategies that will counter biased narratives on social media and online in real time, especially for voters in battleground states.

“I can’t say ‘this person is seeing this,’” Shaunna Thomas of Ultraviolet told NBC News about those types of narratives and disinformation. “But you can say ‘here’s a group of voters who fit the profile of people who we know are being targeted’ and ensure that they are seeing a different message.”

Even before Harris was even named as Biden’s running mate, prominent female Democrats and women’s groups promised to call out any sexism or racism and take steps to disrupt bias taking hold in political coverage and voter outreach.

Ahead of the first, and only vice presidential, debate, Thomas is prepared for bias to seep in — in online forums or on the stage.

Harris allies, including former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, have been vocal warning about the thin line that women candidates often walk on the debate stage because of double standards applied to them. Clinton recently advised Harris to be “firm and effective” when rebutting Pence, but to “do it in a way that doesn’t scare or alienate voters.”

For Mike Pence’s part, his preparations for the debate stage against Harris have included practicing ways to best Harris without opening himself up to criticism that he is acting in a disrespectful or sexist way. Pence is being advised “not to attack a woman,” one ally told NBC News.

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Pence charged with sorting out Trump-centered chaos at VP debate

(ABC News)

Women’s rights and advocacy organizations on the left have been working together to promote Harris’s candidacy. This week they are gearing up too against what they fear will be sexist or otherwise biased attacks during the vice presidential debate Wednesday.

The long list of organizations, including BlackPAC, Color of Change PAC, EMILY’s LIST WOMEN VOTE!, Planned Parenthood Votes! and UltraViolet say they are working in tandem on messaging and outreach. On the phone with ABC News, Shaunna Thomas, the head of UltraViolet, argued that female politicians are still more likely to face attacks — subtle as they may be — about their qualifications, trustworthiness and character. She said the coalition was planning to release content on social media and around neighborhoods Wednesday with an eye toward women of color in battleground states.

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Volunteers Are Coming Out In Droves To Support Planned Parenthood After Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Death

(Buzzfeed)

“It makes sense. It’s natural that people would immediately be concerned about their access to basic health care like IUDs and birth control, and that would motivate them to act,” Sonja Spoo, director of reproductive rights campaigns at UltraViolet, told BuzzFeed News Sunday. “This is the fever dream of the anti-choice movement, to have the pick at the Supreme Court that Trump promised to deliver for them.”

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Republican convention speakers share dark vision of Democrats and praise Trump’s character

(the Washington Post )

A coalition of left-leaning groups is asking television executives for a one-minute delay in the Republican National Convention prime-time broadcast to provide time for journalists to fact-check the speeches and presentations in real time.

“We have already seen Americans die due to disinformation around the covid-19 pandemic and the search for a treatment. We have also seen an increase in hate crimes, police brutality, and racial injustice due to inflammatory and racist disinformation on the news,” according to the letter, sent by UltraViolet, Higher Heights Political Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Emily’s List Women Vote!, BlackPAC and other groups.

The letter was addressed to executives at CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC and CBS. The groups noted that in the past, cable networks have cut away from live events such as the White House briefing to provide quick fact-checking of inaccurate comments and said they hope a similar arrangement will be made for the convention, which starts tonight and airs through Thursday evening.

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Louisville’s largest employers target of national petition related to Breonna Taylor’s death

(Louisville Business Journal)

The petition, which has amassed 40,000 signatures, calls for corporate support in demanding the firing, arrest and charging of the three LMPD officers involved in Breonna Taylor’s shooting death.

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Dan Snyder Must Go, Says Women’s Group. And Take Goodell With You

(Deadspin)

Shaunna Thomas, co-founder and executive director of UltraViolet, released this statement:

Daniel Snyder has enabled, encouraged and fostered a hostile workplace and toxic culture for women. He must go. If the NFL is serious about cleaning up its act, they will force Snyder to sell the team.

The NFL has repeatedly failed women by putting our safety and wellbeing in jeopardy. Yesterday’s report by the Washington Post that more than fifteen women were routinely subject to sexual harassment and abuse by people in positions of power at Washington state’s NFL Team shows that the league is continuing to fail women.

Unfortunately these allegations are not surprising. Dan Snyder’s long refusal to abandon the football franchise’s racist namesake and logo speaks volumes. As we have continued to see over and over again, misogyny and racism seem to go hand-in-hand.

There is no place in any workforce for harassment and assault. The NFL must act now, and fast.

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Social media platforms face a reckoning over hate speech

(Washington Post)
“We are cautiously optimistic that Reddit is finally working with groups like ours to dismantle the systems that enable hateful rhetoric on their platform,” Bridget Todd, a spokeswoman for the women’s advocacy organization UltraViolet, said in an emailed statement.

The group said its members met with Reddit CEO Steve Huffman via Zoom last week, encouraging him to address racism and hate speech on the platform.

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More Headlines


UltraViolet Demands Senate Judiciary Committee Investigate Trump FBI-Led Inquiry into Brett Kavanaugh

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UltraViolet Applauds Survivors for Class Action Lawsuit Against Liberty University After School Enabled Sexual Assault & Abuse

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UltraViolet Praises Bill Officially Raising Age of Consent for Marriage to 18-Years-Old in New York

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New Letter Urges Facebook, Instagram, Twitter to Deplatform ‘Disinformation Dozen’ for Lies About COVID-19 & Vaccines

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New Letter Urges Facebook, Instagram, Twitter to Deplatform ‘Disinformation Dozen’ for Lies About COVID-19 & Vaccines

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Women’s Group Slams AirBnB, Other Corporations, For Refusing to Hire Colorado Workers in Bid to Evade Law Exposing Gender Pay Gap

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35+ Organizations Call Out Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Google Commitments to Generation Equality “Nothing More than a PR Stunt”

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UltraViolet Responds to Overturning of Bill Cosby’s Sexual Assault Conviction

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UltraViolet Praises Legislation to Close Gender Pay Gap for Athletes Representing U.S. Olympic Team

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UltraViolet Applauds Secretary Deb Haaland’s Announcement to Address Traumatic Legacy of Indigenous Boarding Schools

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