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.

  • MrE85

    it seems to me that Teague, not the media, left the clues to the identity of the women. For years, stories of behavior like this have been covered up, ignored and minimalized. As uncomfortable as it may be for the victims, once the come forward and tell their stories, it hopefully leads to a day where this kind of thing is rare, and no organization can ignore it. I give the media a pass on this one.

    • Looking back, I’m not entirely sure we should have made those texts public that the U of M released.

      • MrE85

        I was somewhat surprised by that, especially so early in the process. Evidence that has been made public at a trial, for example, is a different matter.

      • crystals

        Very fair point. If the release was done just so people could see how bad Teague’s harassment was, because folks might not have really believed it without the explicit details, that’s just a sad reflection of our society. It’s also amazingly sad that there apparently are members of the media who felt that level of detail was not enough, and the confidentiality of Teague’s victims be damned.

        Finally, back to Teague himself: what an ass. He outed the people he victimized. If the U ever pays him a dollar of that possible consulting they mentioned last week…I don’t even know.

        These women are brave and deserve the privacy they seek.

        • Jack

          Teague victimized the women again with the specificity in the e-mails. He knew what he was doing.

          So am I going to see an assessment for settlements on my kid’s tuition bill this fall?

          They better not use him as a consultant, he’s a time bomb waiting to go off again.

  • KTFoley

    Where’s that individual from the other thread who believed the victims who don’t step forward should be embarrassed?

    The people who make it as hard as they did for these two — reminding the rest of us with headlines and trumpet blares that other victims can expect the same response — are the rightful owners of that embarrassment.

    Next time we have a discussion about what we individuals can do to make a change, how about if we start with this: “I will approach discussions like this one, and the ones surrounding #yesallwomen, and so many others that have already happened, with my dukes down. I will listen to understand, rather than to debate.”

    If we are moved to dismiss that proposal, what better evidence that the effort is difficult enough to be a rare activity yet productive enough to be a profound one?

  • dukepowell

    Two questions, Bob.

    First, when did these women suffer these degrading advances?
    Secondly, when did they FIRST contact their bosses?

    I’ve sent all of 10 minutes looking for this information and found the documents
    redacted concerning the time of the event(s).

    Seems to me that this is important information.

    • KTFoley

      For whom in the PUBLIC? And why? For picking apart their testimony online?

      That’s not part of the solution, it is part of the problem.

      • dukepowell

        I’m not quite sure what your concerns are but please allow me to be more specific.

        If the two ladies who revealed their identities today made their objections known a year ago and it just came out last Friday, it would be more of a concern than if they objected last Thursday.

        My questions are these: How long did the U of M Administration sit on these complaints? How hard did these ladies have to push to get their accusations considered seriously?

        If the event(s) occurred on Thursday the 6th, then good for the
        U of M. If they occurred a year ago…..

        Well, then….

        • KTFoley

          Ah, I see. Thanks for clearing that up.

        • They occurred on July 15

          • dukepowell

            That was a prompt response by the university. Good on them.

  • DavidG

    The fact that Teague was comfortable targeting two senior advisors to the President of the University says a lot, I think, about the power of athletics at the university (or at least Teague’s self-perceived power). I mean, these are people that meet weekly, if not daily with Kaler.

    And sadly, I think it does a lot to explain Kaler’s response. I’m not convinced he would have responded the way he did if these had been two graduate assistants on the St Paul campus.