An Open Letter to U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez: Changing the Culture of Sexual Violence

Dear Secretary Perez,

More than 27 million women shared their experiences of sexual assault, tweeting in the wake of Donald Trump’s “locker room talk.”

The #NotOkay movement, initiated by social media maven Kelly Oxford, has crystallized around women’s stories of sexual violence.

Secretary Perez, you are a scheduled keynote speaker at the Conscious Capitalism CEO Summit, in Austin, Texas, Oct 18–20.

Would you please speak up about the following matter?:

The New York Times reported in December on accused sex abuser, former rabbi Marc Gafni who described one of his accusers:

“She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her.”


“A co-founder of Whole Foods, John Mackey, a proponent of conscious capitalism, calls Mr. Gafni ‘a bold visionary.’ He is a chairman of the executive board of Mr. Gafni’s center, and he hosts board meetings at his Texas ranch.”

The Washington Post reported on coordinated protests at Whole Foods stores in New York City and Los Angeles in May.

Mackey publicly pledged his loyalty to Gafni in June, as reported by the Forward.

Mackey is a founding board member of Conscious Capitalism, Inc., founder of the movement, and author of the book Conscious Capitalism.

Experts, including advocacy leaders, attorneys, and professors from Harvard Business School, Columbia University, and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, have criticized Mackey and Conscious Capitalism, as noted in the article on Feminine Collective, Conscious Capitalism: This is Rape Culture.

Proposed legislation, the Child Victims Act of New York State — statute of limitations reform for claims of child sexual abuse — heralds the possibility of justice for survivors. Among them is Sara Kabakov, the then 14-year-old victim, the subject of Marc Gafni’s confession, as published by The Times.

Sara’s first-person account of her ordeal appeared in the Forward in January: I was 13 when Marc Gafni’s abuse began.

Last week, she said she was reminded of “the most painful and unspeakable of experiences.” 27 million women know how Sara feels.

Kelly White, CEO of the SAFE Alliance in Austin, wrote in an article last week, A Culture of Complicit Silence:

“That, I have decided, is at the core of much of the intransigence surrounding the problems — the crimes — of sexual assault and abuse. We have all learned to stay silent.”

Secretary Perez, will you take this opportunity to speak up, so that Sara Kabakov and all survivors of sexual assault feel supported?

Will you be part of the solution to change the culture, bringing an to end sexual violence?

Thank you for your consideration.

Matthew Sandusky, Executive Director, Peaceful Hearts Foundation, Author of Undaunted.
David Clohessy, Executive Director, SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests; organization featured in the movie Spotlight)
Rabbi David A. Ingber, Founder and Spiritual Director, Romemu
Michael A. Messner, Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies, University of Southern California, Author, Some Men: Feminist Allies and the Movement to End Violence Against Women
Laura L. Dunn, J.D., Founder & Executive Director, SurvJustice, Inc.
Bill Murray, Founder and CEO, NAASCA (National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse)
Lyndon Haviland, MPH, DrPH, CEO of Darkness to Light
Catherine Goodwillie, Founder, Board Chair at Sexual Abuse Forever Ending (SAFE)
Elizabeth Sullivan, Founder and CEO of EmpowerSurvivors

Jill Jones-Soderman, PhD, MSW, MSHS, Director, FCVFC (Foundation for the Child Victims of the Family Courts)
Sandra D. Potter CEO, Founder, Dreamcatchers for Abused Children, Inc.
David Pittman Executive Director, Together We Heal
Gary Greenberg, Founder, Protect NY Kids
Ana Wagner, Organizer, Brooklyn Bridge Walk for a Window
Ronald Savage, Author, and Activist, former member New York State Democratic Committee
Rachel Thompson, Author, Activist, RachelintheOC and BadRedheadMedia
Julie Anderson, Founder, and Publisher, Feminine Collective
Nikki DuBose, Activist, Author of Washed Away; board of directors, Peaceful Hearts Foundation
Nancy Levine, Author, Activist

Photo Credit: Milan Nykodym Flickr via Compfight cc

Nancy Levine

Nancy Levine is the author of the four-book series beginning with The Tao of Pug (Penguin) has just been released. She spent 30 years in corporate recruiting and human resources roles, starting at American Express Company. More recently, Nancy has devoted herself to advocacy efforts, working to eradicate child sexual abuse and amplifying the voices of survivors. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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