Carmel Mayor James Brainard is facing serious allegations about sexual harassment from Carmel Clerk-Treasurer Christine Pauley. Pauley alleges that the mayor crossed the line with several unwanted sexual advances, even inviting her on a secret getaway to Rome.
Even more disheartening is that the officials of the City of Carmel have turned to an old and harmful tactic – victim blaming — in response to these allegations. They have released a photo of Pauley leaning in close with her hand on [Brainard’s] back whispering in his ear at a campaign event in 2016 as “proof” she did not “feel harassed.”
Carmel Community Relations Director Nancy Heck went as far as to tell WTHR she believes Pauley was attracted to Brainard for his position of power.
Heck went on to say, based on Pauley’s behavior, that she isn’t displaying behavior of a woman who is being sexually harassed by someone. Heck also cited emails from Pauley to Brainard that invited the mayor to even ride together to city events to save on fuel. ‘It seems clear at city hall they were interested in developing a relationship more than professionally,’ Heck said.
Although we realize the details of this case are still unfolding, based on the City of Carmel’s response so far, it would seem that Brainard’s privilege (as both a male and the highest-ranking city official) exonerates him for his behavior. Meanwhile, Pauley is being portrayed as power-hungry and dishonest, as the city’s statements to the media so far indicate they are blatantly attempting to shift the responsibility for harassment to her. Excusing those in power and shifting the blame is a narrative we see time and time again in our society – and a harmful one.
In a post-#MeToo society, where women are being encouraged to come forward and share their stories, it is disappointing to see the Carmel City Government resort to this chilling tactic of shifting the blame to the accuser. In order to create a society where those who have been harassed, or abused, feel safe to come forward, we must start by believing, and not find “reasons” in innocuous incidents for the sexual harassment or abuse.