Dear New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, New York State Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie and Majority Leader Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes,
We represent a coalition of gender and survivor justice organizations from New York and throughout the country calling for the immediate resignation and removal of Governor Andrew Cuomo.
We thank and acknowledge the 11 survivors for their bravery in coming forward to share their stories. By doing so, they are holding the governor accountable, as well as the workplace and systems that failed them. These survivors risked their reputations, their safety, and their careers by coming forward and speaking out against one of the most powerful politicians in the country. The stories Attorney General Letitia James shared detailed the sexualization and dehumanization these women underwent, and speak to the larger epidemic of sexual harassment and assault in this country. Without the courage of these survivors and survivors everywhere, justice would be impossible.
We also applaud Attorney General James for the diligence with which she and her office structured and oversaw this investigation. Her efforts have shown the country what a fair, impartial, nonpolitical, and thorough process looks like for survivors who come forward with a report against a public official accused of causing harm. During the five-month independent investigation, investigators spoke to 179 witnesses and examined 74,000 pieces of evidence, consistent with best practices and guidelines for investigations that the undersigned groups suggested to Attorney General James’ office [https://weareultraviolet.org/cuomosignonletter/]. The final investigatory report found that Governor Cuomo had violated both federal and state laws and created a hostile workplace rife with harassment and bullying. But as Attorney General James said, it’s not up to the investigators or to her as the attorney general to determine what happens next. The governor must take responsibility and resign, and New York’s legislators must demonstrate that they believe in accountability by making clear that if he does not resign, he will be removed.
We will not be moved by Governor Cuomo’s attempts to use the stories of survivors, including those he harassed, as a shield for his own misconduct and abuse of power all while claiming the harassment was a “misunderstanding.” We know that neither public service nor publicly championing “women’s causes” is any guarantee that a powerful person will not use his position to sexually harass employees and cover up that harassment. Make no mistake: it’s not up to anyone else to decide whether or not their touches or comments were inappropriate. Blatant harassment against these 11 survivors cannot be chalked up to a mere “misunderstanding.” His blithe response is an attempt to minimize the severity of his actions which created a hostile environment for his employees –– and allowed him to harass with impunity for years. It is also sadly typical of what those who have been accused of harassing and abusive conduct do: deny the harm, attack the survivor, and position themselves as the victim instead of those who suffered.
Let’s also be clear that Governor Cuomo’s conduct was collectively enabled by many other bad actors actively working in concert with systems and establishments that were built to deter survivors from seeking and obtaining justice. Among them are the NY State Legislature and the media. To them we say: take decisive action now to address these findings with the serious gravity that they deserve. Put a stop to narratives that retraumatize and gaslight survivors. Find the courage to match those of the 11 survivors who risked everything in coming forward, and recognize that accountability is a shared responsibility among all of us.
No curated slideshow can meet or exceed the years of abuse and coverups perpetuated by Governor Cuomo. He must face the full breadth and severity of his actions, and immediately resign, and we urge the elected leaders who called for and supported this investigation to join us in these demands. Anything less undermines said leaders’ own credibility in discussions and legislation in support of survivors of sexual harassment and assault.
Ar. Coalition Against Sexual Assault
CT Alliance to End Sexual Violence
Culture of Respect
DC Rape Crisis Center
Delaware Alliance Against Sexual Violence
End Rape On Campus
Equal Rights Advocates
Every Voice Coalition
Futures Without Violence
Gender Equality Law Center
Girls for Gender Equity
Harvard Law School Gender Violence Program
Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault
It’s On Us
Jewish Women International
Justice for Migrant Women
Lovelace Consulting Services, Inc.
me too. International
Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights
Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
Mujeres Latinas en Accion
Mutual Ground, Inc.
NARAL Pro-Choice America
National Alliance to End Sexual Violence
National Partnership for Women & Families
National Women’s Law Center
New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault
Not Without Black Women
NYC Anti-Violence Project
One Billion Rising
PB Work Solutions
Sexual Assault and Family Emergencies (SAFE)
Tewa Women United
United State of Women
Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance
VOICES of Stephenson County
Vote Run Lead
Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault Inc
Women’s Media Center
YWCA McLean County