Opinions/Editorials (OpEd) by Claire Guthrie Gastañaga
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Create Positive Legacy for VA Women
Daily Press, 20 June 2002, A11.

When Vance Wilkins resigned as speaker of the House of Delegates last week, he tried to excuse his misconduct by pleading ignorance of ordinary standards of decent behavior, arguing that in some past time it was OK for men in power to force unwanted sexual advances on women.

No one bought the argument, although too many tried to equate his behavior to unacceptable but less serious forms of harassment and, in some cases, inappropriate, but nonetheless consensual behavior by other people in leadership positions.

Now that he has done the right thing by resigning, it is time for Wilkins to show real leadership in seeking to change forever the society in which sexual harassment, sexual assault and domestic violence continue to plague our workplaces, homes and communities.

Wilkins can do this by putting his substantial political capital and money to work. He can advocate the election of a woman to replace him as speaker.

And, he can use the money left in his Dominion Leadership Fund, Wilkins' political action committee that is authorized by law to make contributions to candidates, other political committees or charities, to make contributions to organizations serving Virginia women and girls.

Here are some ideas about how Wilkins can use his PAC money to help make positive change:

XX-- He can give to local Girl Scouts organizations in his district that provide leadership and other positive opportunities for young girls.

He can make a contribution to The Virginia Foundation for Women to help endow either the Virginia Women's Leadership Project (a collaboration facilitating the appointment of women to public positions) or the Women's History Month project (an SOL-based curriculum and poster designed to educate children about women who have made important contributions to Virginia).

He can support Virginians Against Domestic Violence -- a nonprofit coalition that is dedicated to the elimination of domestic violence.

He can make a contribution to the American Association of University Women Legal Advocacy Fund to support legal services for women and girls who are victims of sexual harassment at Virginia schools and colleges.

He can contribute to the Republican WISH List (a national organization dedicated to electing more Republican women), Make Women Count PAC (a statewide bipartisan committee dedicated to electing more women to the General Assembly) or other organizations dedicated to the election of more women to state, local and federal offices.

He can fund sexual harassment training for his colleagues in the House of Delegates.

All of these would be worthwhile investments of Wilkins' leadership funds that would leave a positive legacy to the women and girls of Virginia.

You know, if Wilkins acts on some of these suggestions, something good could come out of this.

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