WXXI AM News

For abuse victims, going public isn't easy

Mar 1, 2021

Credit Governor Cuomo's office

One in three adults experiences some sort of intimate partner violence in their lifetime, according to Mary Whitter, the head of RESOLVE of Rochester, a non profit that works with abuse victims.

“This affects every corner of our community and society because it is so prevalent,” said Whittier 

In the workplace, Whittier said it often takes the form of sexual harassment.

Two former aides have of Gov. Andrew Cuomo have accused him of sexual harassment

The governor has denied the allegations. Over the weekend, Cuomo said that he never intended to offend anyone and he said that he never inappropriately propositioned or touched anyone.

Whitter said it often takes time, therapy and courage to come forward with an allegation especially when the harasser is in a powerful position.

“Disclosure is a process, it is not an event,” said Whittier. “Whether that disclosure is from a child or an adult, it is a process and oftentimes it takes a lot of courage, a lot of guts, oftentimes therapy, and counseling and support around the individual to come forward.”

She said the victim wants to know whether they’ll get support or be dismissed. 

“Oftentimes, not never, because we don’t work in absolutes, but most of the time I tell you a little bit because I want to gauge your reaction,” said Whittier.

If the victim does get support in time they go public, sometimes it will inspire others to come forward. She said that happened with allegations against former Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump.

Whittier said one of the common reactions from people is that the victim wants to make money or gain fame off of an allegation. While she can’t guarantee that isn’t the case, she said that’s a very rare occurrence. 

“Most people who have been harassed or sexually abused, the last thing they want is their name in the news,” said Whittier. “Research will show us that the vast majority of sexual abuse cases or sexual harassment cases, upward of 92% in children and nearly the same in adults, are true statements.”

With that said, Whittier said we shouldn’t jump to conclusions about Cuomo because these are allegations and we should have a thorough investigation of his behavior. New York Attorney General Letitia James is expected to do just that.