Editorial: Greitens’ inexcusable actions bring other issues to light

Greitens’ inexcusable actions bring other issues to light
Missouri governor Eric Greitens. Wikimedia Commons

Gov. Eric Greitens once again addressed the scandal that has enveloped his office since earlier this month on Monday night. The governor allegedly photographed a woman while she was bound and naked. He allegedly told the woman — his former hairdresser — that she should never speak of their affair or mention his name or he would release the photo of her. The governor, who ran a family-first campaign, is now accused of being anything but a family man; the affair occurred while his wife, Sheena, was either pregnant with their second son or already caring for him as a newborn.

The timeline of this scandal is jumbled, as it’s littered with statements from the governor that both vehemently deny some events yet acknowledge others. In an interview with the Associated Press, the governor claimed “this was a consensual relationship,” while maintaining that “there was no blackmail, there was no violence, there was no threat of violence, there was no threat of blackmail, there was no threat of using a photograph for blackmail. All of those things are false.” The governor attempted to set the record straight as to what exactly happened during the affair. However, the governor did not deny in his statement the existence of the photograph itself. While the entire ordeal is embarrassing for the governor, it has highlighted other issues related to this scandal.

Professor Sandy Davidson discusses the fact that Missouri lacks any sort of revenge porn laws in a column in the Columbia Missourian. Revenge porn laws exist in 38 states and the District of Columbia. If Gov. Greitens’ alleged actions had occurred in one of those 38 states, the distribution of those photos would be a crime. With the subject of sexually explicit photos in such a high-profile scandal, there could not be a more appropriate time for Missouri to pass a law which criminalizes revenge porn.

Furthermore, in light of the #MeToo movement, we have come to question the ethics of the journalism surrounding this scandal. The now ex-husband of the woman Greitens had the affair with was the source of this scandal. He told his own side of the narrative and put his former wife in a position of submission by releasing an audio recording of a conversation he had with her that revealed the intimate details of her affair.

This news story was aired by KMOV without the approval of the woman, who expressed in an email to Greitens that she “need[s] to move forward in [her] life.” Although this story is newsworthy — one of the individuals in question is the governor of Missouri — the news broke without the woman in question deciding to come forward. By releasing the information, her former husband allowed her to be scrutinized by the public for actions which she regrets. By publishing the information, KMOV did the same.

Ultimately, she deserved to have control of this story. The audio recording was recorded unbeknownst to her, but the recording is legal because Missouri is a one-party consent state. This story was hers to tell, but due to the nature of the information, it was reported regardless. This is a decision that we believe was vetted by those in charge at the station, but it is telling that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch decided not to run a story because the woman in question declined to speak to them.

This affair coming to light is another ripple of the wide-reaching #MeToo movement. The movement must remind our society that power dynamics play an integral role in how sexual misconduct and assaults occur in our world. There lays a sense of control in retelling one’s experience with one’s own words. Shedding light on despicable acts committed by individuals in positions of power can reveal hope, but the survivor’s narrative must be kept at the forefront of the conversation.

The MU Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention center provides services related to decreasing the ubiquity of rape, sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking and can be contacted at (573) 882-6638 or in room G216 in the Student Center.

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