On May 18th, the Los Angeles Times laced into former California Governor (and action movie star, and former Mr. Universe) Arnold Schwarzenegger — not only for his recent sexual infidelity but also for his past sexual harassment.
As anyone who has been reading the news or scanning internet headlines already likely knows, Governor Schwarzenegger recently split from his wife, Maria Shriver, after Shriver discovered that her husband had carried on an affair with a household staffer and had fathered a child with her as well. The explosive revelations marked yet another crazy turn in Schwarzenegger’s extreme and polarizing personal story.
The Governator has never been a stranger to charges of lurid misconduct. As the Los Angeles Times story notes: “When he first ran for Governor of California in the 2003 campaign to recall Governor Gray Davis, Schwarzenegger was dogged by allegations of sexual harassment… of having groped more than a dozen women over the years who did not want his attention and who were humiliated and angered.”
Indeed, these charges dogged Schwarzenegger throughout his campaign. One of the key defenses he utilized was his wife’s testimony about his character. As Ms. Shriver famously noted nearly a decade ago: “you can listen to the people who have never met Arnold or who met him for 5 seconds 30 years ago. Or you can listen to me.” As Times’ article shrewdly noted, following Ms. Shriver’s defense, “the voters elected [Schwarzenegger] in a landslide.”
Who knows whether Ms. Shriver may be reconsidering her past staunch defense of Schwarzenegger in light of the revelations of his infidelity. It’s impossible to get inside her thinking, obviously. But the whole escapade – especially one considered in the context of the allegations of harassment throughout Schwarzenegger’s career – is oddly telling.
It helps us perhaps understand how and why harassment can be such a difficult problem to solve – both for the victim and the victimizer. It is often very difficult for people to recognize and accept their own failings. And even if someone understands that he or she has done something wrong (such as retaliated against an employee unfairly or sexually harassed someone at work), retooling how that person thinks and operates often requires both deep inner work and the institution of systems and structures to keep bad behavior in check.
If you’ve been a victim of harassment, retaliation, discrimination, or any other workplace conduct, you don’t have to work through your challenges alone. The team at Joseph & Kirschenbaum can provide a free and comprehensive consultation for you. Just call (212) 688-5640 or explore additional resources and articles at www.jhllp.com.