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Letter: Stand With Us

More than 170 women lawmakers and lobbyists signed a letter on Monday calling out a culture of sexual harassment and assault at the state Capital. Read the letter below and view the signatures here.

November 6, 2017

Stand With Us

Over the last few weeks, people from every walk of life have stepped forward and created a broad public dialogue about what we’ve always known in our own workplaces: inappropriate, sexually harassing behavior and assault are pervasive. And sexually harassing behavior, manipulation and coercion cut across all industries and professions.

As women serving and working in the legislative and political realm, we add our voices to the chorus of “enough.” We stand together to change a culture that, until now, has too often functioned to serve and support harassers’ power and privilege over protection of those who work with them.

At some point in our lives, every one of us has experienced, witnessed, and counseled others through unwanted advances or a range of dehumanizing behavior – from innuendo to groping, from inappropriate comments and jokes to unwanted touching and assault.

Our political world is one of explicit and implicit power differentials. We have no clear hierarchy like a more traditional workplace. We have no safe, neutral place to report our experiences. And there are currently few possibilities for meaningful consequences for inappropriate behavior. For some of us, speaking out about harassment means choosing between our personal safety and our professional futures or policy successes. We know that countless times, women have calculated the risk, remembered what happened to other women who spoke up and seen the lack of meaningful pathways for change. And too often, the safe choice has been to “deal with” these situations ourselves.

The state legislature should be leading the way. We say we have a zero-tolerance policy. That needs to be real. Today, we challenge the leadership and members of both chambers and both parties to lead the way in our state by working together with us to change the culture from one which silently supports and perpetuates harassment to one which supports and preserves safety. We must all make a tangible commitment to end sexual harassment in all its forms in Olympia.

Let’s make sure legislators, staff and lobbyists understand what sexual harassment is and how the inherent power disparities impact all of us. We need to make clear that we are all expected to intervene and stop harassment and coercive behavior. We must build a safe process for legislators, staff and lobbyists to report and relate our experiences, and create a range of meaningful consequences when lines are crossed.

Today, we stand together and commit: you can come to us if you are in a position of risk. We will help. We will work to protect you. And we will continue to call on leadership to create and use both structures and individual influence to change this culture.

Now is the time. Stand with us.