Teague victims step forward… under pressure

A statement from the University of Minnesota today carries a disturbing piece of information about the actions of the local news media.

It comes from two women who were the victims of former University of Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague, who stepped forward to identify themselves today.

Erin Dady, special assistant to the president at the U of M, and onetime chief of staff to St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman; and Ann Aronson, the deputy chief of staff in Kaler’s office, felt compelled to go public partly because members of the media, they said, were trying to learn their identities.

As a general principle, journalists generally agree not to “out” victims of sexual abuse and harassment. That they felt compelled to step forward raises some ethical questions.

Statement of Ann Aronson and Erin Dady

We are the two women who filed the initial complaints of sexual harassment and assault by Norwood Teague at the University of Minnesota. We are members of President Kaler’s senior leadership team, and Teague was a colleague of ours on that team.

We felt compelled to report Teague’s behavior because it was frightening and wrong. We believed there would be others, and we felt a duty to help protect them.

When filing our complaints, we intended to keep our identities confidential. It is difficult to report sexual harassment and assault and endure a public examination that includes speculative news coverage. President Kaler strove to maintain our confidentiality and is taking decisive steps to review and investigate all sexual harassment allegations and the climate in Gopher athletics. He has made it clear that the University of Minnesota will not tolerate sexual harassment. For that we are very grateful.

Unfortunately, Teague has sent an email inside and outside of the U of M community, disclosing that these incidents of unwelcome sexual advances and verbal and physical sexual misconduct occurred at a University of Minnesota senior leadership retreat. With only a dozen women having attended the retreat, our identities have been rumored and speculated about. And some members of the media have sought to discover who we are.

We therefore decided to reveal our identities ourselves, today, in this public statement. We ask you to respect our privacy and the privacy of others who decide to take such action.

Sexual harassment is a predatory act. Having too much to drink does not excuse it. It’s a problem that continues to plague our institutions and our working lives despite programs and training designed to suppress it. The only way to eliminate it is to call attention to it when you see it or experience it.

In sharing our story today, we hope to make it easier for those who experience sexual harassment and assault to come forward. We stand with them.

Earlier this week, Star Tribune reporter Amelia Rayno stepped forward to announce that she, too, had been harassed by Teague. But she had the luxury of choosing to make her identity known.

Reinforced by this situation is the reality that there’s a tremendous price to be paid by trying to stop sexual assault and harassment. Abusers and harassers know that; that’s part of the problem. Women shouldn’t feel they’re being hunted for trying to stop predators.

After issuing the statement on the women’s behalf, university officials asked local media to respect their privacy and insisted that no interviews will be given.