By Tom Tillison
“I’m done. You all win. I’ll shut up about this now.”
Those are the yielding words of Holly Fussell, a young Central Florida activist who told a remarkable tale of being raped by a coworker while employed by U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, with the sexual assault occurring after having repeatedly complained of sexual harassment to another female staffer and longtime mentor who ignored the complaints; a woman who is now running for Congress in Florida’s 9th Congressional District.
That woman is Susannah Randolph, a former ACORN community organizer and self-appointed “true fighter for women’s rights” who served as Grayson’s district director before running to replace him when he decided to run for the Senate. Randolph is one half of a local “progressive power couple,” the other half being Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph, the former chairman of the local Democratic Party.
“I expected sharing my story would be bad. I expected people to be cruel,” Fussel wrote on Facebook Thursday. “But I never expected it to be anywhere near what it has been, and I just don’t think I can handle it anymore.”
Fussell, 23, shared her story in 2 posts on Facebook last week and was clear about her motive, saying she was “deeply disturbed that Susannah continues to present herself as a bold progressive and feminist.”
“Susannah Randolph is no friend to women,” Fussell declared in the original post, asking readers to “consider my story before voting.”
As is often the case with sexual assault, the details behind Fussell’s claims are not clear. She has not named the alleged rapist on the advice of her attorney, nor has she filed a report with law enforcement. Fussell didn’t provide a timeline, but it appears the alleged attack took place last year. She told Florida Politics last week she intended to bring criminal charges against the man, and that he will be named then.
Whether Fussell follows through on this plan now is anyone’s guess, though few among us can fathom the potentially far-reaching implications if she decides to do so.
Fussell explained that she came forward with her story after receiving help from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, saying it was only then that she was “emotionally ready to talk about it.”
While much of the media, to include the Orlando Sentinel, has ignored the story entirely, pressure was clearly brought to bear on Fussell for making such extraordinary allegations against the powerful former ACORN staffer skilled in the fine art of political intimidation.
At least one member of the local progressive community was willing to talk about what Fussell is likely facing. For the record, Randolph is closely linked to Organize Now, the successor to ACORN Florida.
“I work in a controversial field with controversial people,” Fussell said. “I’m used to being harassed and I’ve even gotten my fair share of death threats. But not like this. I’m not used to being accused of being in cahoots with horrific organizations, and certainly not used to being accused of such things from progressives. I’m not used to my friends being harassed either.”
Fussell’s message is clearly directed at the progressive community; the very hypocrites who claim to stand with women’s advocacy groups.
“Next time you read a story and wonder why women don’t report rape, or wonder why rapists continue to get handled with kid gloves in our justice system, a lot of you need only look into a mirror,” she concluded. “You’ve created this culture.”
And still the media sits silently on the sidelines.