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Because of the strength and courage of survivors, today is Andrew Cuomo’s last day as the Governor of New York.

It has taken years of abuse, a 5-month long investigation, a 7-day waiting period, and a 14-day transition for a man credibly accused of sexually harassing and abusing women on his staff, to step down from his position.

And while we owe a debt to the women who came forward, it should not take the incredible bravery of these 11 women to achieve this level of accountability. It should not have taken the tenacity and relentlessness of Attorney General Letitia James. It should not have taken the solidarity of survivors across the country who refused to let more women be silenced.

We expect that our leaders use the power we have given them to protect us — not abuse us. It is the bare minimum we ask of our elected officials. None of this should have happened, and we deserve better. 

Today represents a measure of accountability, but this isn’t justice — it’s not even close. Justice is when women don’t have to be brave to be safe at work. Justice is when power is used in service to all of us. Justice is when what should not have happened, doesn’t happen. 

We have been in this situation too many times to refuse to acknowledge the truth. There is something deeply and fundamentally broken in our system. And these broken systems continue to hurt those who most need these systems to protect them. 

This kind of abuse has no political identity. There are those who claim to be allies, but then use their position and situational power to privately and insidiously bully, all the while insisting that for survivors of their harassment to come forward would undermine our fight for equity. These people are not allies. They are part of the problem.  

Forty-five years ago, NCLR was founded by feminist attorneys with a passionate commitment to the liberation of all people and a recognition that gender lies at the root of anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Four and half decades later, we still share their commitment to a world free of gender-based oppression. Every day, we work to implement that vision and to honor the courage of clients who have been harmed by discrimination and violence, but who come forward to speak their truth in the hope that change is possible. 

For that reason, and so many more, I’m grateful for the strength and courage of those who come forward, and I’m simultaneously resentful that they have to at all. 

As a movement, we are constantly looking toward tomorrow. Progress happens because each day we challenge ourselves to do better than the day before.

Today, let’s celebrate those who could see this tomorrow and used their voice to get us here. Let today be for these survivors and the myriad others they represent when they speak out. And tomorrow, let’s do better for all of us.

Imani Rupert-Gordon, NCLR Executive Director
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