Minutes ago, Sharon Bialek, one of the four women who alleged Herman Cain sexually harassed her, came forward in a press conference to recount what happened. In short, after losing her job at the National Restaurant Association in 1997, Bialek traveled to D.C. to meet with Cain for a discussion about her finding a new job. Before meeting with Bialek, Cain had her hotel room upgraded to an expensive suite and let her know he was responsible for the nice room. After drinks, he took her to a fancy Italian restaurant, then offered to show her the NRA offices. At that point, Cain allegedly parked the car, reached his hand under her skirt, pulled her head toward his crotch and said, "You want a job, right?" When she resisted, he drove her back to her hotel.
This account is shocking on several levels. First, what the media have described up to this point as sexual harassment has in fact turned out to be sexual assault (though Bialek's lawyer, Gloria Allred, refused to define the crime as either assault or harassment). Neither is acceptable, but assault is obviously a graver crime.
Second, Bialek's accusations are damning because they don't describe what some would find to be an easily excusable, "boys will be boys" scenario—the favorite excuse for men giving unwanted sexual attention. This wasn't spontaneous—an office party that got out of hand (not that that would be excusable). What Bialek described is a planned- and thought-out sexual assault.
Where there's smoke, there's usually fire—or at least more smoke. Someone in a powerful position who used it to assault one woman probably did it more than once. Cain denies Bialek's claims as well as those of his other accusers who have not come forward. But as the number of women stepping forward increases, it’s harder and harder not to believe that we’re dealing with a serial predator.