Three hundred women have signed a letter demanding that the Harvey Weinstein-like tactics at the California state capitol stop.
Now The Sacramento Bee reports that the California State Senate leadership has hired two firms to investigate the allegations of some gobsmacking stories of female politicos being abused by male colleagues.
According to the letter:
Each of us has endured, or witnessed or worked with women who have experienced some form of dehumanizing behavior by men with power in our workplaces. Men have groped and touched us without our consent, made inappropriate comments about our bodies and our abilities. Insults and sexual innuendo, frequently disguised as jokes, have undermined our professional positions and capabilities. Men have made promises, or threats, about our jobs in exchange for our compliance, or our silence. They have leveraged their power and positions to treat us however they would like.
A state lawmaker told the L.A. Times that she’d been groped by a lobbyist:
Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) said being an elected official did not shield her from sexual harassment. Soon after she took office in 2012, she was groped by a lobbyist, she says. A male legislator advised her not to speak out publicly, given that lobbyist’s clout in the Capitol.
“I was really disgusted by both of them,” Garcia said. She said she has not named her groper because “I’m insulated, but only to a certain point. There’s only so much pushback I can take in a given day.”
Christine Pelosi, chair of the Women’s Caucus of the California Democratic Party and the daughter of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, told the L.A. Times that somehow the men believe they’re at summer camp or something:
“It's almost as if it's a different world in the state Capitol. They're not at home. This is not behavior by and large that they would engage in at home. They're almost at camp or something.”
A Twitter account called “We Said Enough” has been set up to highlight the complaints of the political women of the California statehouse:
The stories on https://t.co/ALxH7o3v4s keep coming! Overwhelming. We will elevate victims voices to change culture.
— We Said Enough (@WeSaidEnough) October 23, 2017
Stories sent in by women have been highlighted by the account:
1. We were told if we reported it, we would never work again in the legislature.
— We Said Enough (@WeSaidEnough) October 23, 2017
20. I have been persecuted, harassed, humiliated, retaliated against, lied to & lied about.. suffered from disparate treatment, threatened.
— We Said Enough (@WeSaidEnough) October 24, 2017
But there’s a disconnect.
Even though the letter avers:
Each of us who signed this op-ed will no longer tolerate the perpetrators or enablers who do.
KQED Radio reports that not one perpetrator has been named.
KQED also reports that the Human Resources office at the state capitol has been quiet:
Debra Gravert is the chief administrative officer of the state Assembly, which oversees about 1.200 employees. She says the Assembly investigated three sexual harassment claims last year.
“But then you have this letter that says it’s prevalent. So it doesn’t equal what we we’ve seen,” she says. “It’s frustrating and disheartening.”
Gravert told Comstock Magazine that in the last four years, there have been only seven reports of harassment.
The powerful women working in the California State legislature won’t name names for fear of retaliation or liability.
One of the women who organized the letter and the effort to change the culture of Sacramento, Adama Iwu, who works for Visa, says being vague is the best approach. She told the L.A. Times that naming the men conducting the harassment "doesn't actually fix the problem” and hopes that their approach will have a “chilling effect” on all men there.
The Harvey Weinstein sex harassment scandal emboldened the females working in the California state government to speak out, but it’s unclear if those reports from Hollywood would have had the same impact had the powerful producer not been named.
Here’s the full text of the open letter the women issued:
Last week millions of Americans were shocked to learn of the behavior of billionaire
mogul Harvey Weinstein. We were not. This same kind of inappropriate, sexually
harassing behavior cuts across every industry and facet of our society. No matter a
woman’s age, weight, religion, sexual orientation, race, social status, or position of
power, she is not insulated from this behavior. It is pervasive.
As women leaders in politics, in a state that postures itself as a leader in justice and
equality, you might assume our experience has been diﬀerent. It has not. Each of us
has endured, or witnessed or worked with women who have experienced some form of
dehumanizing behavior by men with power in our workplaces. Men have groped and
touched us without our consent, made inappropriate comments about our bodies and
our abilities. Insults and sexual innuendo, frequently disguised as jokes, have
undermined our professional positions and capabilities. Men have made promises, or
threats, about our jobs in exchange for our compliance, or our silence. They have
leveraged their power and positions to treat us however they would like.
Why didn’t we speak up? Sometimes out of fear. Sometimes out of shame. Often these
men hold our professional fates in their hands. They are bosses, gatekeepers, and
contacts. Our relationships with them are crucial to our personal success.
We don’t want to jeopardize our future, make waves, or be labeled “crazy,”
“troublemaker,” or “asking for it.” Worse, we’re afraid when we speak up that no one
will believe us, or we will be blacklisted.
These degrading acts over time cause us to shrink back in our personal and
professional lives. While advocating for the causes and clients in which we believe, and
working to advance our careers, we must concurrently balance these activities with
worry, fear or shame.
We worry if the dress we wore sent the wrong message; if we are somehow at fault for
our own harassment and abuse. We fear the ramifications of coming forward. Many of
us feel ashamed that we have failed to protect our friends from abuse. We have felt
powerless to stop the cycle.
We’re done with this.
Each of us who signed this op-ed will no longer tolerate the perpetrators or enablers
What now? It’s time for women to speak up and share their stories. We also need the
good men, and there are many, to believe us, have our backs, and speak up. Until
more women hold positions of power, our future is literally dependent on men. It’s time