Since I started researching the FCLO controversy a couple months ago, many people have reached out to me via email, text message and Facebook. I’ve done many interviews over Skype (some were not recorded) and via telephone. Over the course of my research, more and more stories came out about sexual harassment within the Weston A. Price Foundation community, allegedly perpetrated by Geoffrey Morell, former member of the WAPF Board of Directors (he stepped down last week), and the husband of Sally Fallon Morell. According to their farm website, Mr. Morell is also listed with Sally as “co-founder” of WAPF.
In a video interview posted last week, Annie Dru revealed that she was sexually harassed by Geoffrey Morell last year at the annual Weston A. Price Foundation Wise Traditions Conference (coincidentally kicking off tomorrow in Anaheim). In that interview, I also talked about how I was sexually harassed by him at the WAPF conference in 2011.
In this post, Annie shares more details about how she was sexually harassed by Geoffrey Morell at the WAPF VIP Speaker’s Dinner last year.
Note: Stay tuned for more on the sexual harassment stories coming from the WAPF community… I will be putting another video interview up within the next 24 hours.
Defining Sexual Harassment
Before we get into Annie’s story, I want to start by defining sexual harassment.
Forms of Sexual Harassment Include:
Unwelcome sexual advances
Requests for sexual favors
Unwanted touching or physical contact
Verbal harassment of a sexual nature
Physical acts of sexual assault
Making conditions of employment dependent on sexual favors
Annie Dru Shares More Details About Her Sexual Harassment
Annie sent me two statements yesterday via email. The first gives more details about the sexual harassment that occurred at the VIP Speaker’s Dinner at the WAPF Wise Traditions Conference last year:
Thank you for ‘daring greatly’ to pursue this subject. In as much as you’ve had the courage to raise the question more than once in spite of the push-back, I’d like to address it with sincerity, trusting the outcome to the process of authentic dialogue. Please note that I do so in spite of the discomfort recounting the episode in greater detail entails not only for myself, but undoubtedly for the other individuals involved. Transparency and full disclosure come at a cost, and in this case are only warranted by the imperative of preventing further injury.
First though, please know that passing judgement or inciting others to pass judgement on Mr. Morell was and is not the objective of my testimony. I’m certain he is a perfectly lovely man in all other regards. That said, in my personal experience he appeared to have a blind spot when it came to the appropriateness of interacting with a woman at the level of unsolicited intimacy.
It is my opinion that this kind of behavior can only survive in a climate of collusion. To put it another way, such confusion is no doubt fed each and every time something of this nature occurs and those in one’s close circle choose to turn a blind eye. I can imagine that plausible deniability on the part of loved ones might be construed as permission to continue in the mind of someone in the throes of delusion.
In retrospect, I can see that I would have been well within my rights to pull my arm out of his hand and insist that he cease and desist immediately with the unwanted attentions the ‘exam’ entailed. In all honesty I was in fact waiting for Sally to notice what was happening and gracefully intervene on behalf of a decidedly awkward situation for everyone in attendance. I was genuinely hoping to avoid the necessity of creating an even more awkward ‘scene’ by vehemently protesting; which is what it would have taken to detour him, as he was intent on continuing in spite of my gentle hints to the contrary.
I don’t believe anyone at that table thought I was enjoying the experience. In fact, all eyes were demurely averted with the exception of the young man seated directly next to Taylor, who looked at us quizzically and seemed eager to intervene on my behalf if I were only to say the word; which I did not. I felt very strongly that Sally’s proximity, both figuratively and literally made her the appropriate individual to interrupt the encounter with the least possible drama or further unpleasantness.
In as much as a full year has passed, precision in recounting the incident will obviously be less than exact. I ask that latitude be granted here, but to the best of my memory at a certain point in the dinner…
Mr. Morell grabbed ahold of my left hand, rubbed his finger across my palm much as a fortune-teller might, began to caress my forearm, walked his fingers up to my shoulder and then began tapping on my chest just above the breast region. All the while he queried me regarding the strength of my libido and insinuating that it could be reinforced by certain dietary and life-style choices. The word ‘masterbation’ [sic] was was used, and comments were made regarding me pleasuring my husband sexually. I was informed that I was ‘anemic’ and hence wouldn’t fully enjoy the sex act until I rectified that state of affairs.
So there it is, make of it what you will. It is not to try, judge and condemn this unfortunate man, but rather to shine a light on a situation apparently long accustomed to the darkness complicity affords that I now come forward with my story.
Annie Dru On Making It Safe for Victims to Report Sexual Harassment
I’m very grateful to Annie for her courage to come forward and tell her story publicly. I hope this will encourage more women to feel safe enough to come forward. She also sent me the following statement:
When a man, woman or child comes forward with an abuse accusation against another individual or group of individuals in an inhospitable climate, the possibility of further injury to the person making the accusation is a genuine risk, and one that often deters the would-be claimant from speaking up. In such a case it requires boldness to push through the fear of sustaining further injury via skeptical and often invasive inquiry, counter attacks and ultimately discrediting of the claimant and their account of the incident.
Whereas some individuals will shoulder the risk of censure with equanimity, others will collapse beneath the weight of negative public opinion; often sustaining even greater damage from the the retelling of the incident than the original injury itself. You’re no doubt familiar with the phrase ‘rubbing salt in the wound’.
In a civilized community, an abuse accusation would be handled with great care and discernment. Both the accused and the accuser’s vulnerable positions would be recognized, and both parities held in a safe space to allow for an organic unveiling of the truth. Deep respect for human rights is essential for such a delicate social maneuver, and unfortunately most of us were indoctrinated in a culture of shaming on the one hand and enabling on the other.
Early and thorough training in these two particularly insidious deviations from sound mental and emotional health make most of us especially vulnerable to exploitation by large and/or powerful organizations and institutions. Wielding the twin weapons of shame and dependance is an extremely effective method of gaining control over the populace. Even more effective is to teach the young how to shame each other, thereby fostering the kind of codependence that allows subterfuge to thrive. To shame the people is to disempower the people. Disempowerment of the people allows the powers that be to harness and divert personal and group resources to serve exclusively the needs of those in the power seat.
On the surface, this conversation may seem to reference only one man and the handful of women who have confessed to having felt violated by his unwanted attentions. I submit that both the one gentleman and the untold number of females in question are in fact all victims of a much more far-reaching and insidious corruption. I implore you not to play the role of unwitting pawn by cooperating in a nefarious attempt to silence those individuals intrepid enough to come forward on behalf of the ones who can not or will not, thereby creating continued opportunity for the sickness in question to be enabled by a warped and unscrupulous power structure.
In other words, by playing devil’s advocate in the face of these claims, you are feeding into a dynamic that is antithetical to truth and the healing it brings. If the community will make it safe for the accusers to come forward, it can in turn be a safe and fair venue for the accused to be seen, heard, and if need be, helped. Silencing those ringing the bell by shaming them serves only those desperate to retain their positions of power, and does nothing to bring healing to the parties actually involved.
Environments That Are Hostile to Women and Victims of Sexual Harassment
Since Annie Dru and I went public with our stories, there has been a lot of commenting online that has been attacking, shaming and hostile toward Annie and me. In fact, according to the definition of sexual harassment above, many of the comments online were actually further sexual harassment.
According to Northwestern University’s Women Center, two of the effects of sexual harassment are “being objectified and humiliated by scrutiny and gossip” and “defamation of character and reputation”.
As a result of the further harassment I experienced over this past week online, I have experienced great emotional distress. Given my experience of being publicly shamed last year, I am especially sensitive to online shaming. I know firsthand how painful it is. I want to prevent further emotional pain for myself and for the other victims.
Many online have questioned why more victims of Geoffrey Morell have not spoken out, and I think this is due to the climate of misogyny and the pervasiveness and acceptance of sexual harassment that exists in our culture. Environments, including online environments, that are hostile to women are actually illegal. According to Kathleen Peratis, sexual harassment lawyer and founding chair of the women’s rights division of Human Rights Watch, “The definition of an illegal hostile environment… is an environment where there is an atmosphere of hostility and misogyny that is either severe or pervasive.” (Source: Why So Many Victims of Sexual Harassment Stay Silent
While the comments in various forums online where this issue is being discussed may not be “severely” misogynistic, pervasiveness is clear. Peratis goes on to say, “Women who go public still get punished. It’s a sad reality, but some of my happiest clients are the ones who settled for less than their claim was worth and even the ones who decided not to complain at all.”
Stricter Comment Policy on Cheeseslave
For the above reasons, I have decided to avoid reading comments online other than here on Cheeseslave. While I believe it is important for our community to talk about what happened and how we feel about it, I need to protect myself from further harassment, and I want to provide a place for other victims to safely share their stories.
I have instituted a stricter comment policy on my blog to provide our community a safe place to have a dialogue about these issues. You can see it posted above the comment section on every post, but I will repost it here:
COMMENT POLICY: I want everyone to feel comfortable and safe commenting on this blog. Here are the ground rules: No hate speech (including sexist, racist, etc. remarks); no trolling (repetitive and/or inflammatory comments); no foul or obscene language; no personal attacks. Anonymous commenters may comment, but your comments may be deleted if they are suspect. Comments that violate these terms will be deleted. Commenters who violate these terms will be banned from commenting at my discretion. Be respectful and play nice, everybody!
I will be enforcing this policy very strictly on my blog and also on my Facebook page for the safety of everyone reading and commenting. If you feel that a comment you have posted was unfairly deleted, I apologize. I need to err on the conservative side for now, to protect the victims. I will also go to great lengths to prevent people from being banned… but I will ban commenters at my discretion if they are violating the comment policy.
More to Come on Sexual Harassment in WAPF
Stay tuned for more on the sexual harassment stories coming from the WAPF community… I will be putting another post up within the next 24 hours.
Learn More About Sexual Harassment
You can read more about sexual harassment and why victims stay silent in the following articles:
Please Share Your Comments Below
Thank you in advance for your respect and care in your comments. Thank you for making this a safe place for victims to come forward and share their stories. When we share our stories, it allows more victims to come forward, and may prevent others from going through what we have.
After I published this blog post this morning, I was horrified to see a couple really nasty comments come through. I worked very hard to outline what sexual harassment is, how sexual harassment victims are attacked, shamed and further harassed after they come forward, and how that causes them to stay silent. The comments were deleted and one person was banned from commenting (her comment was especially vitriolic and insensitive).
Based on the accusatory comments I received, I wanted to share a little more information from Annie Dru, regarding whether or not she immediately reported the sexual harassment. She did, in fact, immediately report the abuse to her chapter leader.
Annie Dru on What Happened When She Reported the Sexual Harassment
I would like to address the question “Didn’t anyone complain?” in the above post. In fact yes, as I mentioned in my interview with Ann Marie Michaels, I registered a complaint with my local chapter leader the very night in question. Perhaps it would be helpful for me to elaborate the details of that interaction.
Immediately following the encounter with Geoffrey at the speaker’s dinner, I sought out my local San Diego chapter leader who was dining at another table. The person I speak of was a WAPF board member at the time… I relayed the incident in detail, and told her that I was most especially upset about Sally turning her back during the encounter. This chapter leader/board member, with a sigh and a chuckle then explained to me that my experience was not an unusual occurrence. She whispered something to the effect of, and please note that I paraphrase here…
‘yeah… that’s Geoffrey alright… been going on for years… everybody knows… in fact he made similar sexually explicit comments to me earlier… best not to make a big deal about it… don’t want to rock the boat with Sally… etc’.