Sex Harassment and the Truth

Sometimes, only fiction can tell the truth.

There are times great stories don't get told -- for good reasons or bad -- and the journalists who discover them either let them go, or write them as fiction.

Tony Seton, a former ABC News producer, is one of these; he has an important story about how big institutions cover up sexual harassment, and he's written a novel, available on Amazon -- and a screenplay -- because it's a story that would often wind up buried, not because the editors have some agenda, but just because of the press of news.

Here's what he has to say about it.

"It's enormously easy to castigate the mainstream press for the stories they choose to cover, but there is also the flip side of that problem...the news they don't have room or time to report. I came across one such story last fall.

Here are the facts.

A woman named Kyndra Rotunda -- five-feet-tall, former JAG officer, squeaky clean Norman Rockwell Americana -- was married to a Distinguished Professor at George Mason University. She took a job at Mason teaching law school students how to handle the legal problems faced by military families.

The guy who had the program before her, who didn't do much with it, was older and bigger and insisted on lavishing his attentions upon her. She was happily married and unhappy with his behavior. It got unpleasant several times. Then at one point when she was opening the door to her office he came up behind her and rubbed his body against hers.

She and her husband protested to school authorities, demanding something be done, but they were all but ignored. Finally they fled to a safer situation, and filed a federal lawsuit against the perps and the school. GMU is owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia and so has obscenely deep pockets. Had that not been the case, it probably would have settled quickly because the evidence is significantly one-sided.

Kyndra's husband Ron is one of the foremost Constitutional authorities in our country today. I met Ron when he was Deputy Majority Counsel on the Senate Watergate Committee. He is a brilliant scholar and a person of impeccable integrity. So he and his wife are a good match, and it is thus particularly egregious that they should have been treated the way they were.

When I heard the details of this case, I was outraged, of course. So had been many other people. When a couple of articles appeared in legal journals, the phone rang off the hook with calls from women who had received similarly ugly -- and illegal -- treatment. So many of them were stuck, though, and couldn't jeopardize their income. Think single mother supporting their children.

At the time I anticipated that the matter would be settled before it went to trial, so the purpose of writing the novel, and the screenplay, was to reveal to an information-starved country the truth about this dark corner of our culture.

But instead of settling -- instead of negotiating a reasonable resolution -- the other side just dragged it out as long as they could, probably in an attempt to drain the Rotundas of their personal resources and to force them to quit their demand for justice.

Last month, with the date of the trial approaching and all efforts to generate coverage of this crime falling on deaf ears, I decided to write a novel from the screenplay because it would be more "accessible" to folks in the news business; at least more so than a screenplay. "Truth Be Told" is only 150 pages in largish type.

I published the book myself, put up a website[] with all the true facts, as they say, and then went about emailing and calling national and local media, including 45 Virginia broadcasters and newspapers. I also sent out copies of the book to a handful of reporters and serious broadcast hosts, noting the irony of having to write a novel to get real newsies to tell the real story.

The trial is slated to start on June 7th, and while I'm confident that the judge and jury will get it all right, I'm very discouraged by the media. After all, this is an historic civil rights case: The first federal lawsuit against a law school for sexual harassment and discrimination -- Mason paid Kyndra half what they'd paid her persecutor.

Considering the ostensible obsession of the media with sex, scandal, and corruption, you would have thought they would have been all over this like, well like journalists covering a news story. Indeed, perhaps they will come out from behind their keyboards and report the facts of this case in context...tell their audience that millions of American women - mothers and wives, sisters and daughters - are being abused and exploited at the office and in the work place everyday.

They should speak out about this. It's a terrorist threat here at home; more prevalent and all-American than anything Al Qaeda could even dream of."

Tony thinks Reese Witherspoon or Kristin Chenoweth would be perfect for the lead. We'll be indebted to Tony for being upright enough -- and motivated enough -- to get out an important story even though no media outlet seemed interested, because he's a life-long journalist who's seen it all, and still possesses his capacity for outrage.

Sometimes, only somebody who's been around can resist the urge to shrug his shoulders, and instead, do the right thing. That's what changes the world; somebody who decides to do something about it.