In the past month, women in politics have been sharing their stories of sexual misconduct. Women have accused lawmakers from seven different states so far. The Kentucky House Speaker, who admitted to sending explicit messages to a staffer resigned from his leadership role, but has not yet resigned from his seat in the legislature. A Republican budget chairman in the Florida Senate has denied groping claims, as has a former Washington state representative. An Illinois State Senator has resigned following claims of harassment. And finally, a state senator from Rhode Island has detailed her experience as being bribed for sexual favors.
In interview with the Boston Globe, dozens of women working in Massachusetts state politics painted a picture of pervasive sexual harassment and misconduct. One woman alleged that a lawmaker offered to trade a vote for sex. From the Globe:
Aides, lobbyists, activists, and legislators told of situations where they were propositioned by men, including lawmakers, who could make or break their careers; where those men pressed up against them, touched their legs, massaged their shoulders, tried to kiss them, grabbed their behinds, chased them around offices, or demanded sex.
For these women, the political scene has been a minefield in which they rely on warnings from others who have learned the hard way which lawmakers they should avoid. There seems to be no escaping the hostile environment, even in the hallowed House chamber, where one woman saw lawmakers gathering around a cellphone to view pornography during formal sessions.
They spoke anonymously, for fear of retaliation.
“I chose not to complain because it was not worth the price I was going to have to pay,” one woman told the Globe. “You’d lose influence. The place functions on relationships, and if you don’t have relationships with the men who control the place, you can’t get anything done. You put up with it for the greater good.”
House Speaker Robert DeLeo promised to investigate; he said he was “infuriated and deeply disturbed” by the allegations, adding that “the fact that victims fear the consequences to their careers of reporting the harassment is as upsetting as the harassment itself.”