Although news broke last week that several women accused presidential candidate Herman Cain of sexual harassment in the 1990s, the details of Cain’s alleged actions have been thin. Today, that changed. In a press conference this afternoon, a woman who sought advice from Cain on how she could get a job claims that Cain sexually abused her during their encounter:
Instead of going into the offices, he suddenly reached over and he put his hand on my leg under my skirt and reached for my genitals. He also grabbed my head and brought it toward his crotch. I was very, very surprised and very shocked. I said, what are you doing? You know I have a boyfriend. This isn’t what I came here for. Mr. Cain said, you want a job, right?
Now, let’s be clear, these allegations are unproven and Herman Cain is entitled to the same presumption of innocence that anyone accused of a crime has a right to. But Cain has now been accused of a crime. Cain’s alleged actions occurred in the District of Columbia, where the law provides that “[w]hoever engages in a sexual act or sexual contact with another person and who should have knowledge or reason to know that the act was committed without that other person’s permission, shall be imprisoned for not more than 180 days and, in addition, may be fined in an amount not to exceed $1,000.”
These allegations also up the ante considerably for the many, many Republicans who raced to defend Cain last week by denying that sexual harassment is even a real problem. (They are wrong. One in 10 women in the workplace will at some point be “promised promotion or better treatment if they [are] ‘sexually cooperative’” with a co-worker or supervisor.) Yet even the GOP’s most rabid deniers of sexism will have a tough time arguing that there is nothing wrong with grabbing a person’s genitals against their will or trying to physically push them to perform oral sex on you.