What victims of sexual assault can learn from car dealers.

20 December 2017

Recently, Kevin Webb, a former dealership service manager wrote a fascinating letter to to Automotive News.  It is so startling that it is worth quoting the first four paragraphs, in full:

With the recent downfall of many media people, including Charlie Rose, maybe the entertainment industry could use a lesson from car dealers.  In my 20-plus years in automotive dealership management, the transition from old boys’ club to today was swift and without mercy.

And it was pretty simple:  Dealerships started getting sued.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, dealership employers found themselves in court, defending themselves and stores against accusation of unacceptable behavior.

This brought awareness of the issue industrywide and new training programs that showed all employees that the behavior, the suggestions and even girlie calendars in the shop would no longer be tolerated.  All areas of the dealership have been affected, and that’s a great thing.1 (Emphasis added).

And Mr. Webb is onto something.  Those who have been harmed by sexual assault have recently begun speaking out, much more openly, more publicly than ever before.  And that is a good thing.  But there is another, additional remedy; another way to hold the assailants accountable – sue ‘em.  That is, take them to court in a tort lawsuit, seeking damages for the harms that their actions have caused.  This sort of action has two other consequences as well, in addition to whatever monetary recovery the injured victim might receive.  First, the details of the harmful conduct will become public record, part of the trial, and so, open to press and the public.  The attackers will no longer be able to hide behind the shield of confidentiality.

And secondarily, as Webb suggests, one or two significant jury verdicts will send a strong message of deterrence to other would-be assailants, and put them on notice that they, too, can and will be held accountable.

Moreover, because the rules of evidence, and the strength of cross-examination come into play in the courtroom, fraudulent, spurious, or exaggerated claims would be sifted out.

This is not a partisan issue, not republican, nor democratic.  It is not even, necessarily a gender-linked issue. It is rather a powerful tool for victims of assault to hold their attackers to account, and force them to pay for the harms that they have caused.

If you want to change behavior, change the whole culture, and not merely ostracize sexual predators – take ‘em to court.

1 Webb, K., “Hollywood Should Follow Dealers’ Lead,” Letter to the Editor, Automotive News, December 4, 2017