None of the 10 powerful Center Party men suspected of sexual harassment has admitted to sending an obscene message to the party’s former female leader Liv Signe Navarsete. Now she’s gone on sick leave while party leadership is left to report her harassment to the police.
Party leaders had set a midnight deadline on Wednesday as the deadline for confessing to the nasty message Navarsete received two years ago, when eight Center Party men from Trøndelag plus two others were gathered for a weekend holiday at a cabiin in Sweden. The deadline passed Wednesday night, with none of the 10 men admitting guilt.
Navarsete herself says she doesn’t know who’s responsible for the message, which was clearly aimed at hurting and intimidating her even though she’s no longer party leader. After two weeks of dealing with all the media coverage and internal mud-slinging within the party that represents farmers and rural interests, Navarsete told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that the strain of it all had taken such a toll she could no longer work.
Dizzy and disappointed
She claims the message was sent by the men from the party’s Trøndelag faction “to remind me that they think I have been a piece of shit and continue to be a piece of shit,” Navarsete said on national TV Wednesday evening. After holding up well during the media barrage, Navarsete now admits it’s worn her out, while also showing how deeply split and nasty her party can be,
“If I was 16 years old right now, I wouldn’t set my feet in the Center Party,” Navarsete said. She said she initially agreed to be open about the obscene message she’d received, and voice her deep objections to it, “to support the women’s team in the party,” but that’s come at a price.
“I’ve been having symptoms like those in 2014, including dizziness,” Navarsete told NRK, referring to the year when she resigned as party leader after a bitter power struggle with one of the 10 men tied to the obscene message, Ola Borten Moe. He denies sending the message but decided to suspend himself as the party’s deputy leader earlier this week because of the suspicions against him in the harassment scandal.
Navarsete believes it’s “shameful” for the party that none of the men will admit to sending the message. Not everyone in her deeply split party agrees, with two other female party members even suggesting this week that women need to tolerate such harassment or simply not react to it. Mariann Skotte, the party’s mayor in the mountain community of Lesja, wrote on social media, for example, that none of the men broke the law, that the party shouldn’t be airing its “dirty laundry” so publicly and that she and other women have probably received messages from men that are just as bad or even worse. “It’s time to move forward now,” Skotte wrote.
Others strongly disagreed, revealing the deep splits within the party itself. Now it’s up to embattled and embarrassed party leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum to make good on his promise of reporting the sexual harassment to police and requesting an investigation into who sent the message. It’s unclear whether the police, swamped with scores of other cases, will launch an investigation: Prosecutor Jørn Sigurd Maurud told NRK that the case “didn’t seem to be so serious that it should be prioritized ahead of other important cases.”
Vedum said the police will have to decide whether to take up the harassment case, “but we will send this over,” Vedum told NRK. “Suspicion hangs over all of the 10 men. That’s why it’s important that whoever did this step forward so that those who weren’t involved won’t have this hanging over them.” He continued to object to any form of collective form of punishment against all 10 men, ignoring calls that they all be kicked out of the party.