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Journalist says she was sexually assaulted by Sen. Birch Bayh, the “father of Title IX”

Birch Bayh addressing a group of students in the 1970s
Wikimedia Commons

Xeni Jardin, a well-known tech culture journalist and co-editor of Boing Boing, said on Twitter Wednesday that she was once sexually assaulted by former Democratic Sen. Birch Bayh — father of former Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, who announced Wednesday that he is running to reclaim his Senate seat in Indiana.

Jardin said this kind of treatment is depressingly common for women in technology. She also explained why she is speaking out about it now, and why she didn’t at the time:

She added that this has nothing to do with Evan Bayh or his Senate campaign, but that Bayh’s announcement Wednesday reminded her again about the experience with his father.

Jardin’s allegation is jarring given how famous Birch Bayh was for his work on women’s rights during his time in the Senate. He is known as the “father of Title IX,” the civil rights law that protects women’s equal opportunity in education — one of the most important legal tools that victims of campus sexual assault have to seek justice.

But sexual harassment and assault know no ideological bounds, as recent controversy over sexual harassment in the progressive movement has shown. Public values don’t always align with private action.

It’s also incredibly common for victims of sexual assault to not speak out publicly about their experiences for years, due to shame, trauma, or fear of personal or professional retaliation.

This is especially true when the perpetrator is a powerful man with leverage over a woman’s career or social status. That’s also why it shouldn’t surprise us that the recent sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby, and sexual harassment allegations against Fox CEO Roger Ailes, span decades and come from multiple women — many of whom didn’t speak out until someone else came forward first.

Vox has reached out to both Jardin and Bayh for comment.

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