Ever since Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual harassment and assault, the doors were blown open, and dozens of celebrities and media personalities have faced similar accusations.
Now, a new report has been released by HuffPost, and it includes accusations of a similar nature against state Sen. Jeff Klein (D-NY).
Erica Vladimer came forward to explain how the state senator allegedly “shoved his tongue” down her throat. Vladimer worked for Klein from 2013 to 2015 as a fellow and then as a policy analyst, reporting directly to Klein's deputy chief of staff.
She explained that the incident occurred on April 1, 2015, after the state budget passed and she went to a bar in Albany to celebrate with several colleagues. Vladimer said Sen. Diane Savino (D-NY), Klein's longtime girlfriend, was also there.
After several drinks, Vladimer said she went outside to smoke a cigarette with Klein, and that's when he forced himself on her.
“All of a sudden there was a hand on the back of my head and he shoved his tongue down my throat. In my head it lasted forever, I don’t think it lasted even three seconds.”
She then pulled away and told him, “Senator, absolutely not.”
She then explains:
“And he looked at me and said, with this stupid little grin on his face, 'What? What?' Like he was being coy, almost trying to flirt and play a game.”
Vladimer said she continued to tell him no, but he kept responding, “What? What? What did I do?” She then tried to brush off the event by going back into the bar, but she said, “I will never forget the first thought in my head was, ‘Oh my god, did Savino see that? Because if she did, my life is over.’”
However, Savino responded to the allegations and claimed it “never happened” and that she has known Klein “personally and professionally for almost 16 years.” She said it never happened, and that she knows him ”better than anybody."
Vladimer fled the bar around 4 a.m. and went to a friend's house, where she immediately explained to her friend and her friend's fiancé about the incident.
Her friend, who chose to remain anonymous, said, “She was hysterically crying, not able to breathe, couldn’t catch her breath. I’ve only seen her like that maybe one other time ever. It takes a lot to be sobbing hysterically, she’s not a big crier.”
Vladimer didn't file a formal complaint against the senator because she blamed herself for the incident and felt ashamed.
"I think it’s very important, when you look at things such as sex harassment and assault, it’s not about the sex, it’s about the power. The abuse of power over people under you, people who don’t have the same amount of power as you. Power being used in a way they felt they had the right to.
I hope to help the women who might have been in a similar situation and who left [politics] like I did, to realize that they’re not alone and they’re probably not done with all of the things they could get done in government.
We should come together and continue on our journey. I want to try to empower other women to use their voice, and their own personal stories, to help affect the change they want to see.
I think Senator Klein needs to step up. As a leader of a very powerful conference in the New York state legislature, he has the ability to effectuate change. We have the Senate Dems who put out legislative packages on sexual harassment, and the governor saying he’s going to discuss proposals. What’s the IDC going to do? What’s the GOP going to do?"
Klein and Savino held a conference call with the press and denied the allegations before the report was released. Klein's lawyer has admitted that the two were at the bar together that night and that they did smoke a cigarette together but denied that an assault occurred.
Vladimer has called on Klein to “step up,” adding that if he doesn't, “then he should definitely step down.”
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