Rana Abbas, at the mic, state Rep. Rashida Tlaib, standing behind her, and other women announce the formation of the Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Harassment. Tlaib and Abbas say they have both been victims. (Ricardo Thomas / The Detroit News)
Dearborn— Hoping to better protect victims of sexual harassment and lift the stigma associated with reporting such allegations, a state lawmaker and others affected have created a coalition aimed at reforming laws and offering help.
“While I cannot change the fact that I am a victim, we as a community certainly have the power to prevent other women and men from becoming victims and help those who are victims or being victimized now,” said Rana Abbas, who plans to be active with the newly formed Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Harassment.
Among the coalition’s goals: addressing the statute of limitations; launching a hotline, and connecting victims with legal advice and other resources, state Rep. Rashida Tlaib said.
“Sexual assault and harassment are serious issues and can ruin victims’ lives,” the Detroit Democrat said. “With the help of this new coalition, I will work hard to enhance our existing state laws that address sexual harassment in the workplace and beyond, and to streamline reporting processes across the board to ensure that the rights of victims are protected throughout any investigations.”
For Tlaib, the efforts were personal. Tlaib was among a group of women who allege they were sexually harassed by Imad Hamad, the Michigan regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. The ADC board placed Hamad on leave and launched an investigation. Though it found “inconclusive evidence of sexual harassment,” officials said, Hamad was removed from the post and was expected to be an adviser.
Also Tuesday, community members were asked to support a pledge, adopted by the Center for Sexual Assault Crisis Counseling and Education, denouncing sexual harassment. “It is a universal problem and we must be vigilant in reminding ourselves to be aware of what is happening around us in the workplace and elsewhere,” said Tim Attalla, a local lawyer.