With all the talk in Washington these days about John Conyers, Al Franken and whoever else may still be accused of sexual harassment, it must be a daunting and frighting place to work if you happen to be a woman. But if it’s any consolation, things could always be worse as the saying goes. For example, you could be working in Sacramento.
The center of power for the California state government may be, if anything, even more of a cesspool than D.C. Legislators there are in the midst of hearings about sexual abuse by representatives and staffers with plenty of secrecy surrounding a history of similar assaults. In testimony before one committee, a lobbyist declared that she had been a victim herself, but was still refusing to name names because she was sure she would never work in that town again. (Sacramento Bee)
“I can stand here and tell you as a 35-year-old woman what it’s like to experience sexual assault at the hands of a powerful colleague who in this instance happened to be a lawmaker,” she said. “I can also tell you stories about 23-year-old me and 26-year-old me and even younger me when I was volunteering on campaigns.”
In a business that relies on relationships, she said she worries that naming names would damage her ability to connect in the Capitol. “I know that people will whisper behind my back. I know that people will snicker at me as I walk by.”
The lobbyist wasn’t the only one offering testimony about what it’s like to work inside of California’s capitol building. The daughter of Nancy Pelosi (who recently called John Conyers an icon when quizzed on the subject) had her own experiences to share.
Instead, a “whisper network” takes the place of formal reporting about sexual assault and harassment said Christine Pelosi, chair of the California Democratic Party Women’s Caucus.
“We have rapists in this building. We have molesters among us.” she said. “There are perpetrators, enforcers and enablers in this building, and … a lot of us know who they are. We find out through that whisper network. People do talk, they just don’t come forward.”
It’s good that people are coming forward, but much like the situation in Washington, D.C. we’re seeing a similar wall of silence in Sacramento. A lobbyist who is willing to say that elected officials abused her but won’t name names isn’t doing anything to protect the next generation of women. And the younger Pelosi refers to a “whisper list” which sounds identical to the “creep list” we keep hearing about from women in D.C. who said they knew not to get on an elevator with Conyers.
If the rest of the women working in either place don’t have access to that list, how are they to avoid the perpetrators? And if the lobbyist stands in front of the cameras and says she is afraid to name names, what incentive is there for the other victims to speak out? Sacramento is looking even worse than D.C. as this ugly saga moves forward. And perhaps it’s not that surprising since the current generation of Californians came from the same stock that inhabits Tinseltown.