Are we finally becoming less tolerant of sexual harassment? It depends where you look.
Certainly, the ground seems to be shifting in Hollywood, where some of the men who have preyed upon vulnerable underlings for years are finally being unmasked. We’ve seen some titans of the national media toppled lately, too, as victims of their predation have come forward. On Beacon Hill, leaders are saying the right things, as it becomes clear that politics has serious, and ongoing, problems with the crude treatment and objectification of women.
As a counterpoint to all of this good news, let me present the mayor of Everett.
Carlo DeMaria has been so utterly untouched by multiple claims that he sexually harassed women that he is not only running for reelection Tuesday, but running unopposed.
Everett loves DeMaria. The casino he helped bring to town will pour tens of millions into city coffers. Parks are being beautified, schools are doing well, and property values are rising. Voters appear to have decided he’s a good mayor.
But, for the four women who told their stories to the Globe in 2014, DeMaria is something else. Describing incidents that took place between 2005 and 2012, they accused him of harassment that included demands for sex and groping. One woman who was working with the mayor on a program to support local military personnel said he harassed her intermittently for several years starting in 2008: squeezing her breasts, kissing and hugging her, and twice showing up uninvited at her home.
DeMaria flatly denied all of the claims then, as he does today.
“These old allegations are untrue and tremendously hurtful to my family and my community,” he said in a statement on Friday. “I am proud to have a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment in the workplace. Everyone is entitled to feel safe in our communities.”
There were records to bolster some of the details of the women’s stories. And some told others about the alleged harassment at the time. None of the women sought financial settlements. Only one made a formal complaint. It was hard for them to come forward, reliving events that had traumatized them. But the whole thing blew over. DeMaria’s position has only grown stronger — so strong, that none will challenge him.
“There is no stopping him,” said one of the women. “I felt exposed, and like I wasted my time.”
This woman accused DeMaria of exposing himself and demanding sex in 2005, before he became mayor, when she was an employee at a doughnut shop he owned. She reported it to the police, and brought a criminal complaint against him. The complaint was dismissed twice — once because she lacked witnesses or physical evidence, and once because her recollections of one significant detail were inconsistent. She said she misremembered the detail in the courtroom because she was upset. Besides, she said, three other women came forward to accuse him of similar harassment.
“It’s like none of us exist,” she said. “Our word isn’t good enough because we are not the mayor and we don’t have enough money and we’re not as important as he is.”
At this point, she said, she blames the police, the courts, and the voters as much as she blames DeMaria himself, because they failed to hold him accountable for what she says he did to her.
She has been watching the news, seen others telling their stories of harassment — and being believed. She wonders if it would have turned out differently had she and her fellow accusers come forward today, instead of three years ago.
“Do we have to be a famous Hollywood star,” she asked, “to have somebody take us seriously?”
She has plenty of company, of course. These are dark days for the many women who accused the president last year of sexually harassing and assaulting them — women who were subjected themselves to ridicule and derision as they told their stories after the release of a tape in which Donald Trump boasted of doing exactly the sort of things they described. Not only did the women’s stories make no difference in the election, the full weight of the presidency is now arrayed against them. It is the official White House position that they are lying.
Similarly, DeMaria is more powerful now than ever, his position bolstered by the game-changing casino he helped land. This woman, who says she still suffers from anxiety because of the alleged harassment, knows it’s over. DeMaria will, of course, still be mayor come Wednesday.
“It’s like it never happened,” she said.