“The Board of Directors of the Humane Society of the United States retained Morgan Lewis in December to conduct an investigation of allegations of workplace misconduct against our CEO, Wayne Pacelle. A special committee of the board is overseeing the investigation and reviewing its findings.
We do not have information that can be shared regarding the investigation, its findings, or board actions at this time. We believe it is important to deal in substance and not rumors, and our process is designed to ensure confidentiality and fair consideration of these issues.”
Chair, Board of Directors, Humane Society of the United States
The accusations against Pacelle come on the heels of sexual allegations against its former Vice-President of Policy Engagement, Paul Shapiro, who quietly left the organization earlier this month after working there for 13 years. There was no formal announcement except buzz on social media when Carol Adams, an animal activist and writer, was one of the first women to come forward in a facebook post to openly state she was sexually harassed by Shapiro:
“To spend your time trying to hold someone accountable for sexual harassment in the animal rights movement, to make recommendations for the best way for him to move forward, (to publicly hold himself accountable for his actions) and how healing that would be, and that he could provide an example to other men in the movement who are also perpetrators, and hope against hope that perhaps he can get it. And to wake up and see his facebook feed and that of his friends’ and know that he isn’t going to and that his privilege continues to protect him. This should be simple, for heaven’s sake: if you know someone is a perpetrator please do not like his posts!”
Shapiro refused to answer the allegations on his recent book tour stop in Washington D.C. as seen in this video. I’m not sure if this was the proper venue to ask him but it was probably the only way someone could inquire about the allegations.
Then there is Arthur Benjamin, former HSUS National Council member who has been sued four times for sexual misconduct. According to Humane Watch, Benjamin helped to raise $2.5 million for the HSUS and worked on the National Council for four years until last year. Benjamin has been sued for sexual assault, rape, and harassment. Benjamin’s behavior of “inappropriate or unlawful behavior” has spanned approximately 20 years. The claims were made while he was CEO of a company called Data Mark. Humane Watch outlined Benjamin’s behavior as follows:
- In December 2001, Jeanette Borthick, a DataMark employee, filed a federal lawsuit against Benjamin, DataMark, and a DataMark vice president, claiming a violation of civil rights and sexual harassment. She alleged that Benjamin raped her in a hotel room while they were in Phoenix on business.
- The same day, Angela Allen Stoll filed a lawsuit against the same parties, claiming sexual assaults that occurred over a number of months at hotels, Benjamin’s home, and their place of employment.
- Borthick and Allen also sued Benjamin in Utah state court in 2000.
- In 2002, Jo-Ann Meron filed a lawsuit against Benjamin, DataMark, and DataMark’s COO, alleging sexual assault.
- According to the above litigation, a Debbie Juarez sued Benjamin in California court for allegedly raping her in 1995 while he was the president of now-defunct Watterson College in Southern California.
The Meron complaint didn’t just outline Meron’s personal allegations, it alleged a history of inappropriate behavior by Benjamin spanning two decades, including:
- Having a sexual relationship with a student while he was president of Watterson College, and having a relationship with an employee while president.
- Being the subject of a sexual harassment complaint at previous employment at Dover Business College.
- Continuing his alleged pattern of sexual harassment after he joined DataMark in 1995, including at least 5 separate instances of harassment.
- Admitting being the subject of a sexual harassment complaint in approximately 1982 made by a receptionist at a previous employer.
Benjamin denied these allegations, and the cases were largely settled without going to a jury.
The Meron and Stoll claims were settled out of court. The Juarez case was allegedly settled on the eve of the trial. The Borthick state case went to trial, where a jury found Benjamin liable for negligent infliction of emotional distress, but not the other claims. Benjamin later reached a settlement with Borthick. (Benjamin sued his insurance company to get indemnification.)
The #MeToo Movement has finally reached the animal rights arena. Will it be a pervasive issue as we’ve seen in Hollywood and the political arena? If the allegations are true, should Wayne Pacelle step down like his former employees?
Women mainly represent the majority of employees/volunteers in the animal welfare/rights field but it seems more men are hired to positions of power than women. Why aren’t more women hired as Executive Directors or CEO’s of animal organizations? It should be the person best qualified for the job regardless of sex. With men in these positions, it can be intimidating to come forward to share their stories of sexual claims. Some have been forced to be silenced. Some have left the field entirely. Many animal organizations don’t have a HR department to report any claims of sexual misconduct so the inappropriate behavior continues.
Now is the time for women not to be afraid and step forward with real allegations. I don’t want to see anyone’s career derailed over false accusations or without due process. We’re seeing a deluge of actors and politicians losing their careers over sexual charges without due process. I also don’t want women to be silenced any longer. It has been a man’s world for too long. Make no mistake, there are women who are to blame for sexual misconduct as well. Women can be ruthless in this field. They can be catty and quite mean to each other. No, it’s not the same as sexual misconduct but it is about power. It’s all about power! Anyone who uses their power or authority against anyone who is helping animals needs to be called out!
I sense this is the tip of the iceberg as more women feel comfortable to come forward with their stories.
Stay tuned. This is far from over.
Tina Evangelista-Eppenstein is a television talk show host, speaker, writer and is an unabashed animal advocate. Her love for animals and quest for the hard truth is what drives her passion for all things animals. She hosts the show, ” A Close-Up Look at Animal Welfare Issues.” She adores her once-abused tripawd, Brody. If you’d like Tina to talk to your group or have a story, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Like https://www.facebook.com/ACloseUpLookAtAnimalWelfareIssues and check out AnimalWelfareIssues.com for all the tv shows, articles, and podcasts you may have missed!