I feel exploited. And I feel sick.

I’m sick of pedophiles. I’m sick of rapists. I’m sick of sexual violence and sexual predators. I am sick of being reminded moment after moment of the times — yes plural — that I have been shocked out of my body, stripped of my power and deprived of the right to defend my own body by a man sexually forcing himself onto me. More than that, I’m sick of my traumas and the traumas of other survivors being exploited for political gain and emotional satisfaction on both the left and the right. Physically. Sick.

I am sick to know that I cannot protect myself or my daughter from the pussy grabbing woman hater that controls every single law and policy that guides this nation. I am sick to know that Roy Moore exists on this planet and that there are millions of people supportive of a known pedophile holding power over millions upon millions of women and girls in the state of Alabama and the United States. I am sick that a member of the Trump campaign and former state Senator in Oklahoma plead guilty to child trafficking.

And I am sick that people like Leeanne Tweeden feel comfortable enough to take the traumas of the women and children that have been the true victims of sexual violence and used them for her own personal gains and the political goals of the Republican Party.

Leeanne Tweeden is the woman that recently accused Al Franken of sexually violating her at a rehearsal for a USO comedy show in 2006. Her decision to take her story public after 10 years of “silence” has been framed by both the left and the right as a survivors’ act of bravery that demands immediate attention and strict consequences.

I see Leeanne Tweeden’s actions quite differently.

What Leeanne Tweeden has done is stolen the very real traumas of very survivors — people like me — and mocked them. What she has done is taken our pain and our bravery and our strength and exploited it on behalf of a network of people that actively prey on the women and children she is pretending to show solidarity with. What she is doing is vile and it is disgusting and it is dangerous on every personal and political level associated with sexual assault in the United States.

Perhaps if she was, in fact, a survivor of sexual assault she would understand the damage that is being caused by her actions. But she is not a survivor. And she is definitely not a victim of Al Franken.

Leeanne was never raped. She was never assaulted. And she was never the victim of sexual violence or harassment. She was a willing and active participant in a comedy show that involved sexualized behaviors. She consented to participating. She actively engaged in and invited similar behaviors with other performers other than Al Franken at the event.

As recently and clearly described by journalist S. Novi:

“Both SNL and USO stage skits are well-known to be over the top when it comes to topics such as sex, but the USO performances are even more so due to the audience of mostly military males. Since the days of Bob Hope, there have always been beautiful bombshell women showing up in scanty outfits and sexual dialogue running from innuendos to outright blatant views. If you are either a male or female performing in these shows you are expected to play along.

…. there are a number of images as well as videos appearing that show that Tweeden didn’t seem to have a problem with sexual performances on stage including that of her grabbing the butt of a Country and Western performer and rubbing her behind up against him and the singer grabbing at her butt. Additional videos of the tour have included a very sexual performance with the comedian Robin Williams as well as the real on-stage ‘kiss’ with Franken.

In this case, we have a woman that signed up for known sexually oriented skits and performances that she approved of, and rehearsed, and then performed many of them onstage in both a preplanned and ad hoc way.”

Leanne Tweeden was a consenting and contracted performer for the USO then, just as she is a contracted performer for the right wing now. She was not then and is not now a survivor. She was not then and is not now a victim of Al Franken.

Al Franken’s tasteless joke didn’t make her fear for her life. It didn’t make her burn the clothes she was wearing that night. It didn’t make her scrub herself clean in the shower until her skin tore off. This joke didn’t keep her up shaking and puking and sobbing on the floor of a shower as she bled down a drainpipe. It didn’t send her to the clinic for STD tests.

Al Franken’s joke didn’t crush her notion of who she was or how she could walk in this world. This joke didn’t give her PTSD or depression or any of the lasting forms of struggle that true rape and assault victims must face minute by minute. It hasn’t informed every relationship she’s had since. And it wasn’t in any way what so ever a form of rape, assault or even harassment.

Leeanne Tweeden was not then and is not now a victim. A very large part of me wishes she had been, though.

As a survivor and active member in the struggle to protect and progress civil rights in the United States, I have a track-record of confronting both the Democratic and the Republican party for abuses. If Tweeden was a victim of a violent and predatory Al Franken, I would have stood right by her side and called for an investigation of the Senator and his immediate removal from office. I would have gladly lumped his name into a category with Roy Moore and Donald Trump and Roger Ailes and Henry Weinstein. I would have written an article about how we can’t entrust or bodies to legislators that will assault our women and children and legally enable the predators to get away with similar crimes no matter what side of the aisle we come from.

She is not a victim. She is not an ally. And she is not a survivor. Those words have meaning. Those words hold weight. And she has not earned her right to wear those badges.

What Tweeden is, is a willing participant in a new skit in which the Republican Party uses her completely normal interaction with Al Franken as an excuse to accuse a Democratic Senator of sexual assault, deflect from the charges of rape and pedophilia in the highest ranks of their own party, and test drive a strategy by which they can gain increasing amounts of power by exploiting the sexual traumas of women and children.

And their plan is working. Almost inexplicably.

Politics isn’t a game of morality. Clearly. Wins and losses are accomplished on the basis of strategy. And right now, the Democratic Party is letting a pussy grabbing steak salesman and a bigoted gun toting pedophile out-strategize them with some of the most remedial and ridiculous strategies in the book: deflection.

For example, these lines of argument may sound familiar:

It’s the left that is racially dividing the country, not the alt-right. It’s the Clinton’s relationship with Russia that is suspicious, not Trump’s. It is the left that has destroyed healthcare, not the GOP. The Democrats are the Party of the KKK, not the Republicans.

That’s because one of the most common rhetorical strategies employed by the Republican Party is to deflect an accusation by turning the charges on them around to the accuser. And as common and predictable as this strategy is — the Democrats still haven’t come up with a consistent method to counter it.

Just as in any game of competition, and especially political competition, one side can only succeed if the other side fails to stop them. And fail is exactly what the Democrats are doing. Failing.

Rather than taking a stand against the exploitation of sexual assault survivors, they are allowing the Republican Party to use our trauma as a cover to advance their own political agendas. Worse, they have taken the political bait hook, line, and sinker and rather than launching a full-scale counterattack on the GOP, they have turned on themselves and started calling for the resignation of a member of their own party.

Rather than focusing on accusations against Donald Trump, Roy Moore or Ralph Shorty — the attention is turned onto Minnesota Senator Al Franken. Not only do the Republicans succeed in turning the attention away from themselves, but they succeed in turning the Democrats against each other. And the final narrative becomes:

It’s not the Republican Party supporting pussy grabbers and pedophilia. It’s the Democrats!

The Democratic Party is practically handing the nation’s women and children over to pedophiles and rapists simply because they asked them to. And if we let Senators like Al Franken — representatives that have voting records filled with support for women’s rights — fall to pedophiles like Roy Moore, then we are allowing the real traumas of exploited women be used as an excuse to put more women and girls in harm’s way.

This is what terrifies me most.

One of the key functions of the Democratic Party is supposed to be to protect its constituents and the nation from attacks by the Republican Party. They are supposed to have an exhaustive list of narratives strong enough to counter the most complex of political accusations, in addition to this predictable, rookie-level attempt to lump Al Franken into the same category as Roy Moore. They are supposed to have the media and legal prowess attuned enough to protect both the leaders and the members of the Democratic party from these predictable but incredibly dangerous attacks. The Democratic Party is supposed to ensure that a pussy grabber and a party of pedophiles don’t get to control how we talk about sexual violence let alone what we do about it.

And they have failed to execute their duties. In fact, they’re carrying out the agenda of the Republican Party for them.

The Democrats and members of the left have called for the removal of Senator Franken and an investigation into Tweeden’s right wing backed accusations. They have failed to protect true victims of sexual assault from Republican exploitation. They refused to counter the narrative that Al Franken’s completely legally, nonviolent and consensual interactions with Leanne Tweeden should be equated with sexual harassment, assault and pedophilia. And they have all but totally succumb to calls for the investigation and removal of Al Franken.

It clearly cannot be denied that sexual violence exists on both sides of the political aisle, but it is the Republican Party that has perfected the technique of weaponizing and exploiting these traumas for their own personal gain. It also cannot be denied that the Republican Party is on the offense when it comes to applying this repugnant tactic.

If the Democrats can’t figure out how to counter this most obvious and basic strategy to use sexual assault as a front to advance their political agendas and damage the Democratic Party, then this strategy is likely to destroy the standing of more than just Al Franken.

There is no shortage of Tweedens standing in line to gain 5 minutes of fame and a right-wing paycheck to be used as a grenade to blow up the next Democratic target. And there is no shortage of targets. If the Democratic party continues to let the Republican Party beat them with the most obvious and low hanging strategies, what hope do we have that they can counter any of the more complex attacks on this nation and the people in it? If the Democratic Party keeps allowing the Republican Party to blur the lines between sexual violence and sexualized behavior, they are putting more women and children in the hands of unthinkably powerful predators — and they are paving the path for the destruction of the entire Democratic Party at their violent and perverse hands.

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74 thoughts to “A Survivor’s Defense of Al Franken

  • Renee

    So thankful for the truth and the education this article provided, which I read originally on Medium. I hope Senator Franken makes it through this and that he knows the full extent of whatever support there is for him, including this writing and any and all like it. I, too, am a survivor, and I, too, am sick of all the lies.

  • Patricia Fox

    Your message was true and to the point. I appreciate your courage in coming forward. Never would doubt Al Franken’s integrity.

  • Sherril Toft

    Thank you for this amazing and courageous article. I have searched for words to express my feelings about this transparent political attack, and you have summed it up so well. It makes me ill to watch the Democtrats (AND Minnesota Public Radio) throw this good man and highly effective senator under the bus. Al Franken has done so much for women and MN. And he is the target of this planned attack because he is so skilled at defending us and our country, and therefore a threat to the self righteous Right. We need to strike back now or the Right will continue to use their cunning and evil ways to get rid of all of our defenders.

    • Kate

      Yes, the author of this article articulated just how I’ve been feeling about this situation.

    • Anne Howard

      Sensible defense of a man clearly wronged. Losing his place in the senate hurts the sensible and plays into Trumpism in the worst way.

  • Deb R

    After reading this piece I was more confused than ever. It sounds like just because some woman did some skits portraying her as a highly sexulized person she is not believed that something more happened. Did she say that the skits were degrading to her? Of course she should not have done them in that case.
    I guess that if we stop believing each other then we are hopped. Yes even a prostitute can be raped. Yes even a wife or girlfriend can be raped. To say there are many liars out there looking for some fame I’m afraid we will never get out of this pit we are trying to get out of. The pit of silent shame and endless guilt that has kept so many of us quiet.
    So I’m asking for proof. Why do we believe some and not others.

    • Suzanne

      I agree 100%. The author states that Ms. Tweeden was not the victim of a sexual assault. How on earth would she know? The photo was just one example of what happened to her. And even if she was “just kissed” against her will, I know that when that happens a woman does NOT KNOW that it won’t progress to rape. It is traumatic.

      I am a liberal democrat. I have been assaulted and also raped. I make no excuses for Al Franken just because I like his politics. And I never, ever, ever, ever claim to know what happened in a situation I was not witness to. Believe women Dr. Potter. I am ashamed for you.

      • drew

        Ah Suzanne. Nobody is excusing Franken for his actions…even Al himself. Asked for a hearing. Resigned as opposed to creating static in a political climate that desperately needs focus elsewhwere. That is the sign of a decent and civil person.
        The essay that Dr. Potter wrote [above] is more decrying the deliberate and egregious equating what one side of the political spectrum does [D] versus the pugnacious arrogance of the other [R]. To exploit his action for political or personal gain while excusing others for actions worse is just duplicitous and evil. I am ashamed for you because you either failed to read or understand Dr. Potter’s comments.

      • Dana

        It’s terrible! I campaigned for Al Franken and I held him to high standards. He failed. We are all disappointed, and I believe women! No one can define a woman’s experience. Leanne says she was bullied then she was bullied. Even more disappointing is women who are using these defenses and biases to attack another women.

        • Linda

          I take women’s accusations seriously. I don’t believe all women. Each requires an investigation. But don’t pretend that some women don’t lie or exaggerate claims of sexual assault for their own gains or other reasons. The trope of white women accusing black men of rape comes to mind.

          • Bambi

            Linda, HEAR! HEAR! All, even men, should be listened to. the situation and circumstances need to be considered. Once a woman says “No”, whether it is a gentle touch to the back, a kiss or more, “No” means “No”. Aggressive physical contact or violence is NEVER OK (except between 2 consenting adults) but, I am not willing to ruin a guys life because he misunderstood a friendly gesture as flirting. If a person in power retaliates because of rejection OR a subordinate to a supervisor, that is wrong. This issue is not simple or black and white. Each situation has to be looked at independently with ALL things heard, truly listened to, and considered. It means we all have to stop being so quick to judge and condemn on either side of the situation, slow down and look for all the facts and possible underlying motives.
            I was a victim of sexual assault, no rape so there was no evidence, there fore a “he said, she said” situation. I also know of situations where there was false accusations and vengeance.

        • Connie e

          I get sick of fake accusers USING ALL OTHERS.It’s the same old same. The GOP accuses thousands bite,waste time and money on Nothings. People are so easy confused, THEY seem to love it. How long can we sit and blame ignorance. The GOP keeps it going, it’s fun for then. We in turn hate believers. It’s not fun, it ruins lives at their expence.It helps nobody,only messes up minds struggling to get it right. Shame on the accusers.This isn’t a movie, it’s real lives they play with, to keep their evils alive. I’m so tired of their evil games. Cant they once do what their job without hurting others. No more games, if they dont ever want to get along STOP PLAYING. They are in so deep our country is damaged for their greed this time. Helping themselves has reached its end. EVILS MUST BE STOPPED real deamons cant stay any more,they hurt the world. We want Good to win now.send them packing.

      • Kathie

        Women have to follow the same rules. Tweeden sexually assaulted men on stage and did not get fired. Not all women are innocent and somne are down right evil and vindictive. No, not all women are to be believed at face value and ones like Tweeden ruin it for real victims.

        • Connie e


      • Linda

        Taking her own statements at face value, her complaint was that Franken’s kiss was wet. She consented to the kiss, she just didn’t like how he kissed. Sorry but that trivializes real cases of sexual harassment and abuse.

        He deserved due process, not vigilantism forcing him out of office.

      • Linda

        Tweeden was NOT kissed against her will. She never claims that. She consented to a rehearsal of a skit that she knew contained a kiss. She did not object to that. She objected to a kiss that was “too wet.” That is NOT sexual assault nor sexual harassment.

        I have been sexually assault and sexually harassed. Her lies and exaggerations infuriate me and calls into question the accusations of real victims. This infuriates me.

      • Heather

        Tweeden Said she was forcibly missed and groped. I’ve had too much experience and witness to all kinds of sexual harassment to doubt women. Yes, there may be someone on the political front that lied, but I really don’t think there is much of that in companies and outside of the limelight. Usually, it is women that suck it up and don’t tell anyone. This is an awful article that send the message that it is ok to doubt and cat blame on the victims. That is transference!

    • Susan Alexander

      Deb R – see if you can hunt down the two videos on the Internet showing Tweedem sexually attacking two different men on stage, one while he was singing, and the other, Robin Williams, while he was talking. She actually humped William’s leg. Someone who lives in his town and knew him personally says he never would agree to this kind of behavior. Both men appear surprised and do not appear as if they gave permission. So, it looks like Tweeden was acting the same way she’s accused Franken of acting. Maybe if Robin Williams were alive, he’d step forward and claim sexual harassment by Tweeden. Tweeden got used by the Republican party.

      • Susan

        I agree with you 100%. Tweeden was a willing participant for the Republican party. It’s easy to see she is ok with the explicit sexual behavior by viewing her videos on tour with the USO. I do wish Robin Williams was alive. He would come forward. There are some on here who believe ALL women, which is naive. Her accusation was a political hit, so I agree with the writer of this article and shame on Tweeden for cheapening the reports of women who have truly been assaulted. And, yes, June, she did accuse him of forcibly violating her by forcibly kissing her. She even managed to cry. She is a fake and hurts the cause. Shut her up.

    • June

      Did Tweeden accuse Senator Franken of rape, or attempt to forcibly violate her in a sexual act? If she did, I didn’t hear it. I think the least we might consider with all these accusations is apply the legal definitions.

    • Susan C Davis

      To “get to know” Leeann Tweeden, (I don’t think there is an “e” at the end of her first name) all you have to do is go to Amazon and key in her name in the search box. You will see a lot of Leeann. If you want to see more, key in Leeann Tweeden Playboy and you will see blurred photos of her on internet pages she has her sex photos on for sale. Leeann Tweeden’s motto is “You can look, but don’t you touch!”

      • K Grant

        “Leeann Tweeden’s motto is “You can look, but don’t you touch!”

        So how you dress should matter in terms of people touching you without your permission? If I go to an event in a sexy formal gown, I have to allow men to touch me? Bullshit. Looking sexy or sexual does not give anyone the right to touch.

  • Debby Horan

    This article hit home for me…the washing off of our body the slime of abuse.
    Thank you for putting it down.

  • Kim Thomas

    Who is the author of this article?

  • JL

    I am a survivor, and I stand with you. And I support and appreciate Al Franken, and sincerely hope that he remains in the Senate.
    However, I don’t think Ms. Tweeden should be dismissed. There are two important issues she brings up; one is the issue of consent. She takes issue with Mr. Franken kissing her during a rehearsal for the skit in question. I am an entertainment professional in Hollywood and have been for many years. On that authority I say that it is industry standard to mime or pretend to kiss or touch during rehearsals. It is a sign of respect to withhold sexual or intimate contact until absolutely necessary for the performance. In this way actors show respect for each other and show that they do not wish to take advantage of each other. It is perfectly correct for Ms. Tweeden to object to an actual kiss that took place during a rehearsal. She did not consent to be kissed in that instance. She could also not have consented to participating in the joke depicted in the widely seen photograph, as she was asleep.
    More importantly, she brings to light the shallow end of sexual harassment, the part we all have just endured, but shouldn’t have to. What Ms. Tweeden adds to the conversation is how pervasive and acceptable mild sexual harassment has been, and that we should not let it creep in, even at these low levels.
    No, she is not a victim of sexual assault. But she *is* a victim of sexual harassment, and her objections are legitimate and help to legitimize other women and men who have experienced unwanted touching and misuse for the amusement of others at their expense.

    • Lynda Meyer

      Only a short time ago a complaint about being kissed or made the object of a sexual “spoof” would have seemed absurd. Hopefully things have changed!

    • Barbara Engler

      Although Tweeden says she was shocked by he picture where Al Franken was supposedly grabbing her books. First he wasn’t touching her and second she is wearing a Kevlar vest and if we was touching her he couldn’t have grabbed them as the Kevlar would hold stiff. She is a disgrace to woman. I was assaulted at the age of 8, molested at 12, molested again at 14 and raped by my boyfriends father at 18. She didn’t have throw up as she cleaned herself up. Shaking with the distaste of having someone force themselves on you. She didn’t have to sit still whole being held down screaming in her head to STOP!! She had a voice. She signed up to do a USO tour. She makes me want to throw up with her actions. All these either woman that say he touched my butt. He touched my breast. Well how many of these women went to see strippers and allowed their bodies to be touched or didn’t leave talking about what they would do with that man? You don’t get to come out and say you were traumatized by something that happened 10,15, 20 years ago. Get the hell over it. If you were that traumatized you should have reported it back then. Go to therapy share your story with others that help you to move on. You don’t wait 10-15 years and say it’s traumatized you and then you remain anonymous? I didn’t get to remain anonymous when I filed my police reports. I didnt stay anonymous when I confronted my demons. Don’t belittle those that have survived and minimize what we went through.

  • camille Cress

    By the time I finished reading this, I was out of my seat and yelling….. I have not been a victim of abuse or rape so I would never presume to say I understand what you and others have been through. I will say that you have made me remember why I am proud to be a woman and, as my daughter would say, a “bitch on wheels.” Thank you for your courage.

    • Beth Hengst

      felt exactly the same way

  • Kim

    THANK YOU FOR THIS! Your piece captures my sentiments, exactly. I am sickened by the “victims,” like Tweeden, who sit on their stories for decades and then whip them out when they are suddenly in fashion. And, I couldn’t agree more here: “USO stage skits are well-known to be over the top when it comes to topics such as sex, but the USO performances are even more so due to the audience of mostly military males… Tweeden didn’t seem to have a problem with sexual performances on stage including that of her grabbing the butt of a Country and Western performer and rubbing her behind up against him and the singer grabbing at her butt.” She is a lingerie model, and Hooters calendar girl (google her for slutty pics) and she knew exactly what she was getting into when she signed up for that UFO gig! Her job was to wear skimpy, be provocative, be sexy. Did you see the photo of her (during the same trip) in a skimpy “patriot” outfit making out with one of the soldiers? It’s ok for her to make sexual advances at a perfect stranger but problematic when on the receiving end (as it was written in the skit script, and rehearsed!) that is also part of the same gig? Did you see the photo of she and Frankin at a party yeuking it up at party years later? She didn’t seem so traumatized then. I am so angry about this one allegation because she’s clearly an opportunist who, yes, jumped on the bandwagon of true victims probably for a buck, or her 15 min of fame, or her political agenda. She gives it up for money which makes her a prostitute. Infuriating.

  • Ron Huppert

    As a man, I am pleased with the fallout from the Harvey Weinstein debacle. It’s about time men are called out for the deplorable, if not criminal, behavior so many women have experienced for so long. As a man, I have also been reluctant to say anything about the Franken story so it would not be misconstrued.

    It was dumb to pose for that photo, for sure. I am unclear if LT was “groped” physically or virtually and to many that may be a distinction without a difference, but comedy is sometimes sophomoric and for Pete’s sake, it was a USO tour. I cannot attest to what Tweeden feels, but methinks she doth protest too much. As for the woman at the state fair, something seems odd there too, whether it’s the seemingly natural smile on her face or the strange Facebook comment, “Dude — Al Franken TOTALLY molested me! Creeper!” Really?

    Since he “committed adultery in [his] heart many times,” should Jimmy Carter resign from Habitat for Humanity? No, and Al Franken should not either. I commend him for being upfront and apologizing right away. His behavior is not equivalent to the long list of names that have been outed recently.

    Thanks for writing about this. Men do a lot of stupid things and we have a lot to learn, but one’s character should not be distilled exclusively from the non-criminal mistakes we all make.

    • Pegareno

      Yes. The strange Facebook comment was in itself peculiar and seemed like a response to her sister words…”you aren’t biblical distance apart”…and then the comment you mentioned. Later a friend suggested to look at it all in reverse. Someone wants dirt on you, so perhaps they scour the internet for said dirt. You find some lonely old photograph, find the girl, she needs a college fund and she is on the other side anyway…so why not? Al did do a number on Sessions and we all know what that did to the President. Follow the money in some cases but follow Roger Stone in this one.

    • Susan G

      Ron, thanks for a man’s perspective. I agree with you completely. The fakes in the bunch delegitimize those who have been truly abused. It’s hard to take the word of a woman who is a nude model who acts outwardly sexual toward men and then calls foul. We used to call it a “prick tease.” LT truly delegitimizes the cause and I wish her to shut up.

  • Sally

    I am in hope that everyone reads this . Although long it is worth reading every word. I too pray Al Franken comes through this vindicated and in one piece this is disgusting and shameful !’

  • Pingback: In Defense of Al Franken | Voices In Random

  • Jack Bass

    Looking at the photo, it appeared to me that as a comedian, Franken spread out his just above her breasts for the photo. With all the allegations that he “groped her,” seems to me (and my wife) that she would have awakened. This article was by far the most insightful I’ve seen re this subject. Many thanks.

    • Taylor A Hirth

      You’d be surprised what you can sleep through. I myself slept through men kicking my apartment door in, and it wasn’t until one put his had over my mouth and I couldn’t breathe that I even woke up.

    • Victoria

      I agree with you regards to the photo. It could have been a prank between friends who banter. He didn’t touch her in the photo. But if he forced his tongue on a rehearsal kiss, that’s different. He says he “doesn’t remember” doing that. And there are several other women who have come forward, and his answer is basically, “I’m just a guy who likes to hug, and I’m sorry if I ever made anyone feel uncomfortable, but I didn’t mean any harm.” You don’t accidentally cup a woman’s buttock in your hands or rest your hand on her breast during a photo and keep it there. Franken tries to blur the lines by claiming ignorance of normal boundaries. He condemned himself by responding in this way.

  • Taylor A Hirth

    As a survivor myself, this sounds like all the victim blaming I’ve ever heard. Being a part of a sexual skit does not give Franken the right to grab her and shove his tongue in her mouth in any context which she did not agree to/consent to. It does not give him the right to use her body as a prop in some childish joke. Just like being married to somebody and having sex with them doesn’t mean that person can’t also rape you. Just like engaging in sex doesn’t mean that person can’t suddenly do something you did not agree to and a consensual experience can suddenly become a non-consensual trauma. Her story doesn’t change the truth of mine, but the way you’re choosing to pick her story apart will certainly impact other women whose stories don’t fit the standard narrative of what rape is supposed to look like and their decisions whether or not to report.

    • Dr. GS Potter

      This is an assault reported to the public through a political lense, not an interpersonal one. Through an interpersonal lense, we must always support and defend the victim. Through a political one, we must reserve judgement and be very critical in order to ensure that that trauma is not being exploited to manipulate us.
      Please read “Why we can’t just believe all women” for more.

      • Lisa

        Here is also another reason many women can’t always be believed, and this case is not isolated. I’ve been talking about this issue for years, women who are not true crime victims and those who use the system to their advantage. It is now standard in divorce that men receive OFP’s ( Orders of Protection) that are totally unfounded, or outright false. Women are outright lying to judges to get an advantage in a divorce for financial and and custody gain, it is unconscionable! Not to say what is does to the children. Even at our local Kid’s First Group here the women counselors have said OFP’s are being used falsely too often and it is hurting children. It’s just the tip of the iceberg these days. I’ve been a women’s activist all my life, even wrting articles to our local newspaper and helping form the group Men as Peacemakers. However, women do need to be held accountable for their actions as it demeans the rest of us when they are not truthful. It’s why I do not vote democratic anymore as these laws are started by women’s groups with no restriction or accountability, and now the net is much too wide. it’s now guilty until proven innocent which totally goes against our justice system. I for one am glad this happened as now it will hopefully wake up others. I as well feel bad for Franken, but he’s unknowingly caught up in the web he’s pushed to create through women’s groups without checking the repercussions of these broad laws.. I wouldn’t vote for him, however I do feel for him. Every time we use our resources to focus on these weak or false cases we open a bigger gate for real pedophiles, rapists and violent criminals to fly under the radar. I truly thought we all learned something from The Salem Witch Trials, but history repeats itself if us as citizens do not stay diligent. Right is right, whether you’re a man or woman.

        • Lisa

          And thank you Dr GS Potter for your true bravery in writing this eye opening accurate article. : )

    • De;pres Dees

      Al Franken is not accused of rape. He is accused of escalating a consensual stage kiss to a tongue in mouth kiss. The photo is stupid but he is not touching her. Al Frankin said he remembers the kissing scene differently. He did not say how he rembers it. Maybe we should ask. I would like to see the videos of The USO Shows Leeanne Tweeden consented to do.

      • Delores Dees

        This whole thing needs investigating.

        • drew

          Isn’t it good that Ex Sen. Franken asked for one?

    • Beth Hengst

      Excellent point. Innocent before proven guilty, claims taken seriously until proven otherwise.

  • angela harding

    WOW how powerful is this I’m a survivor of child abuse, and this hit home for me, I have been asking myself why did some of these women wait so long before coming foreword, and this is changing what is sexual harassment I don’t think i’m being harassed if a man put’s his had on my shoulder but these women do it is sad. there will come a day when there will be no interaction between men and women the men will be to afraid of being accused of sexual harassment

  • Stephanie

    Thank you!!!! I have been saying this the entire time. I’m a rape survivor, I couldn’t even report it because MN law protects the abuser under a cohabitation & consensual sex law, and there was no physical violence just force.
    I’m tired of women who are stating what is most likely an accident during a photo op as some of these women have claimed of Franken is assault, just for attention. As you have stated they are hurting those of us who have survived and those who haven’t.

  • cherra Connor

    Your message is right on target. Thank you. I beleive Al Fanken is a good man and should not step down. I beleive we are judging people to switfly and they should atleast have some way to defend themselves. And I also think Trump should be gone too. And Moore, if Franken steps down these women senators that went after him should put as much effort into getting rid of the horrible man we have in the White House.

  • Elinore

    I’ve watched you for years—& listened on the radio. You’re a good man and we needed you in the senate. Too bad you got hit by this tidal wave; you deserve better.
    I’ll miss you.

  • Rick Stasel

    Excellent article, thank you.

  • Vicki

    Amazing article, I have been going crazy of how to explain my thoughts and emotions over what happen to Franken and how up set I am with The Democrats for sveral Year’s to the point, I will not donate money until they get their act together . The continue to let the Republicans throw them under the bus.
    Thank you for giving me the relief of trying to articulate my feelings.

  • Judy Hopkins

    I absolutely support this article. I think he has been set up,I think it does a disservice to those who have been raped or abused,Al Franken is needed to balance the current insanity in government. Get him back!

  • Marty Juniel

    I am not going to blame his victims even if i think in the past I might not have thought him out of line…even if it were me. I am sad that Al Frankin has to resign. I believe he is in a bit of denial. We don’t get to tell our fellow women whether or not they have a right to be offended. I would not have come forward in the belief that he is working very hard and doing good work at a time when we need all the help we can get. I guess I would feel that the senate needs him more than I need to tell the world how badly he behaved. His accusers don’t share that idea. They have every right not to. Mostly, I feel sad.

  • Trudy

    Amazing article—one that I totally agree with. As a true victim of spousal rape, I was appalled of Leeann’s accusation of being a victim. She destroyed the career of an advocate for women. The shame belongs to her, not Al Franken.

  • Denise

    Thank you so much. I am equallyy touched by your pain and the vivid picture you paint while describing the depth of understanding and COMPASSION for victims the same sex as one who caused you so much pain.

    Call me inspired, humbled,, and in deep gratitude for your words. I am happy I am not alone in seeing the charade, manipulation, and further exploitation of women by a well intentioned MeToo movement.

  • Dana

    You might want to check your character. I’ve been the victim of assault, I’m the real victim not YOU. Or something. Really? Leanne is a republican and you are attacking her and delegitimizing her claim. If a women says she’s been bullied, then SHE HAS BEEN BULLIED. You can’t define HER experience. YOU TWIT. Just stop it. I am SO happy us MN dems stood up for what is right! I campaigned for Franken and met him several times. I am so disappointed and I believe women!

    • Lisa

      I’m from Minnesota, I know full well the laws surrounding these issues start right here in my home town .After being a democrat I’m now a libertarian due to these exact issues, it’s why I voted Trump this time. And no, if a woman says she has been beaten, raped, assaulted it isn’t always true. Are you saying women don’t or can’t lie? Well that is just totally absurd. I’ve known women, right in my hometown. to make up false allegations to gain an advantage, whether it be in divorce, a settlement or attention. To say you believe all women doesn’t make you discernible. Watch ESPN’s 30 for 30 Fantastic Lies, that just one of many cases. Look up The Innocence Project. There are plenty of false accusations and innocent people because of it. Truth and facts are what must rule in court otherwise we’ll all be tossed into oblivion. So you must believe Casey Anthony, Jodi Arias and the like. Not saying Franken didn’t get fresh with women, but there needs to be facts it was sexual harassment or assault. I’m big on stopping sexual assault, rape and violent crime. I wouldn’t vote for Franken, but think this case has been more of a witch hunt.

  • Dana

    The photo was not consensual. You need to correct this right now. You are wrong and you know it. She did not consent to that photo. This is your own political bias, you are willing to sell out women for your hatred of republicans and that is very wrong.

  • Darrell

    excellent article, I have posted before that many years ago I was followed from a gay bar brutally beaten and sexually assaulted. (yes men are also victims). My assaillant was most likely a repressed queer of the type we find to often in the Republican.

    This woman speaks for myself and thousands of other genuine victims of violent sexual assault.

  • Laura

    Great articulation of what so many of us have seen in this entire situation, especially the distinction between what Franken has been accused of, how he’s responded and how it’s been incorrectly compared to most of the other accusations of impropriety thru abuse. Even worse, somehow, because he apologized!

    I have been subjected to many forms of sexual invasion of my person throughout my 5+ decades of life, starting with being molested by a family member repeatedly in our home, to being date raped as a teen, to being a target of a boss (the business owner.) Child molestation makes you more vulnerable to later abuses, blurs boundaries, teaches you that you are for sex so that’s your identity and currency, that you have no power or right to expect different. And it is the norm not the exception to have even delayed understanding of what happened to you – so if you ever report it you do so years or decades later. So I disagree in part about the delayed reporting criticisms. But I think the spectrum of delay is that those who are youngest and/or most powerless are most likely to delay while someone with power or a strong sense of value and boundaries will much more likely report immediately or even effectively block the assault (abusers absolutely k ow this and choose their victims accordingly!) I think Tweeden and Franken’s other alleged victims are generally toward the latter on this scale, but of course I don’t know their history.

    Sadly, the author is most accurate on the response of the dems – and we can see it here in the comments. Sadly Franken has responded to both accusations and abandonment by previous supporters by resigning. Perhaps he can run again and see if Minnesota still believes in him to represent us well, as will be the litmus test for Moore and apparently was for trump. I’m so disgusted by how smug they are as Franken resigns. Their plan is working, the imbalance is tilted even more toward republicans and the right.

    Just one last comment. Trump has said the difference between Moore and Franken is that Franken admitted he did something wrong (in the face of little evidence and even the worst accusations don’t rise to criminal level, though I’ll say I’m uncomfortable with how many there ended up being) and Moore fully denies all and accuses his accusers of lying (in the face of some support of claims, certainly community remembrances of him being banned from malls and such.) Trump himself has been accused by several women, whom he accuses of lying – but he also has bragged about several behaviors, some rising to the level of sexual assault. So if admitting and apologizing makes you guilty and denying and counter-accusing makes you innocent, what does bragging make you? I say it makes you guilty. Bragging is the admission without the apology – meaning he admits the behavior but believes himself beyond being held accountable for it, that as a “special person” he is above the law. The rules don’t apply to him. I think that’s the definition of sociopath. And guilt.

    • Jill

      Well put!

  • Andrea

    So you’re saying essentially that anything short of rape in the historical meaning of the word is not assault. I disagree and the laws of most states, if not all, disagree also. I also disagree that the accuser’s having performed in a raunchy skit made her fair game for any man to forcibly kiss, tough, or photograph her, asleep, in a humiliating circumstance.

    • drew

      Andrea Well then it’s a good thing she reported this assault to the authorities…which she never, ever did. Ever. She reported it at a convenient time during a popular news cycle. To the public. Rather…to a news source.

      THAT is what this essay is conveying. REAL rapists, molesters and stalkers await you in many aspects of life and it delineates the intensity of those assaults when you equate them with this situation.

      Your last name wouldn’t be Dworkin, would it?

  • Melissa Gutierrez

    This is very disturbing. I read the article written by the victim. She did not complain of sexual assault while doing the skit. She claims she was assaulted during rehearsal when he forced his tongue into her mouth and afterward when he took a photo of himself grabbing her breads while she slept. What she said fits the legal definition of sexual assault. This writer is doing exactly what victims complain about: she’s blaming the victim by saying she consented to doing a show with sexual overtones and so she has no right to complain, she’s gaslighting the victim by saying it’s not truly sexual assault if it wasn’t rape (dispite the law), and she’s slandering the victim by saying she’s doing this for an ulterior motive. The way she brings in the Democratic Party is way too much akin to how relatives will tell victims to stay silent about “what they imagined” because if they don’t they’ll ruin the family. Her behavior toward the victim is shameful. She needs to continue therapy and learn how to respond to other victims when they remind of her own assault so she wont rage on them for daring to say “assault” if it wasn’t “as bad” as hers.

    • drew

      Melissa, what is disturbing to me is when ones outrage is dependent on an erroneous conclusion and a misinterpretation of facts. He didn’t [nor could he possibly] take “a photo of himself grabbing her breads[sic] while she slept.” Examining the pic shows he was mimicking doing this since his hands were far enough away to cause a shadow between her and his hands. It is also disturbing that you believe her and her interpretation of the ‘facts’ while dismissing Sen. Franken’s memory. Was Franken so powerful as to destroy her career as a Hooter’s Girl of Budweiser ad flooze? This certainly doesn’t give ANY MAN the right to abuse or manhandle her. However the issue here is degree and frequency. If you don’t examine all the facets of this then YOu are missing the point, Melissa; YOU are the one doing more damage to the fabric of the country. Examine the timing. This accusation came on the heels of a very important run-off race in AL where the Republican candidate has much to answer for. Moore used his position as AG to gain access and validity to hound underage girls at the local mall with impunity. Franken might be a regressed adolescent but he isn’t a serial stalker. It has been rumored that Roger Stone prompted Ms. Tweeden to bring up an otherwise mild incident from a decade ago. The point of this article is that ACTUAL victims of assault are demeaned when your accusation comes from the want of self-promotion and personal gain. Al Franken is a decent and fun-loving individual and the element of his character is shown by a civil invitation to be investigated and then to step down for the betterment of our government to concentrate on larger things. Like a tax cut that will take tips and Christmas bonuses away from you. Your attitude is pressed by a lack of full understanding of their actions and an ignorance of the very real and very pertinent peripherals.

  • A

    Why are you all putting blinders on to all his other accusers? Taylor Swift just won a civil assault case for falling victim to exactly what Franken’s other accusers claim he did to them. Turning a blind eye when the accused seems “likeable” does nothing but perpetuate rape culture.

  • Anna

    I agree with you for the most part.

    Where I vehemently disagree with you is your argument that Tweeden cannot claim assault or harassment because she did not experience severe traumatization afterwards.

    One can experience trauma without necessarily being traumatized. Ex:70% of adult Americans will experience a trauma in their life and of those only 20% will develop PTSD.

    So using the argument of it’s not really harassment because she didn’t burn her clothes, compulsively wash, bleed, worry about STDs, or develope PTSD, is not only a completely unecessary argument (you can totally argue against the legitimacy of Tweeden’s account with out using this bad argument) but is really harmful to the myriad of other men and women whose experiences you are unintentionally suggesting we deny simply because they were fortunate enough and resilient enough to not be traumatized

    Which is to say the bar for whether you get to define yourself as a survivor of sexual abuse or sexual harassment should not rest solely on the developing severe mental health or physical health symptoms afterwards as you suggest.

  • drew

    A Have you examined the accusations. High numbers of accusers does not merit guilt and nobody is turning a blind eye. If you think that defending Franken’s mature and proper actions during these proceedings [apologizing, advancing the possibility of a senate investigation, stepping down (which is NOT a blanket admittance of guilt)] is perpetuating rape culture I will say you are delusional and prone to hyperbole.

  • Kelle

    I’ve been saying this since Franken’s first accuser started her smear campaign. I’m a survivor of an actual violent assault, not an unwanted kiss or a fake perspective shot photo, and I’m appalled by Dems that forced Franken out. Franken’s accusers are many things but they don’t strike me as victims so much as people with a political agenda.

  • Mary R McDonald

    Thank you.

  • Dolores Stinson

    Words cannot express my relief and gratitude for the women who involved themselves in Frankon’s defense. The presence of representatives like Frankon is much needed. He was used as the sacrificial lamb. I fear Democrats will regret their action.

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