Last month 140 legislators, staffers, consultants and lobbyists signed a letter declaring that there is a “pervasive culture of sexual harassment” in Sacramento. Signatories include six current legislators, a Board of Equalization member and both Republicans and Democrats. Allegations have been made against current and past legislators.
Unfortunately, given the power and influence of some of the alleged perpetrators, the consequences of speaking up about inappropriate behavior can be significant. For too long, this problem has been swept under the rug, with victims afraid to speak out or to identify those responsible.
Assemblymember Laura Friedman, D-Glendale, chair of the Assembly Rules Subcommittee on Harassment, Discrimination, Retaliation Prevention and Response, and myself as vice chair, announced that our committee will gather information about mistreatment from victims and examine current practices and policies. We will do all that we can to ensure immediate change to a culture that seems to wink at abuse, harassment and obnoxious behavior. In addition, victims must be able to feel safe when reporting these incidents; we must ensure that retaliation or threats of retaliation are not tolerated.
The Legislative Women’s Caucus is advocating for a bipartisan, bicameral approach with the singular end goal of no more victims. Connecting victims to services, creating a safe reporting system, holding perpetrators accountable and changing the Capitol culture are critical subgoals.
California has a longstanding reputation of supporting justice and equality for all. Apparently however, we still have a long way to go.
Position and power should never be used as weapons.
Minority Floor Leader Marie Waldron, R-Escondido, represents the 75th Assembly District in the California Legislature, which includes the communities of Bonsall, Escondido, Fallbrook, Hidden Meadows, Pala, Palomar Mountain, Pauma Valley, Rainbow, San Marcos, Temecula, Valley Center and Vista.