California lobbyist Pamela Lopez said she was sexually harassed by Democrat Assemblyman Matt Dababneh, whom she alleges followed her into a restroom and masturbated in front of her at a friend’s wedding party is Las Vegas in January 2016.
“No, I will not touch you,” Lopez told the press at a Monday morning press conference in Sacramento as she recalled the words she used to let Dababneh, of Van Nuys, know that she rejected his behavior. Prior to Monday, she had refused to name the man she said had sexually harassed her.
Dababneh represents the 45th Assembly District, which located in the western San Fernando Valley.
Lopez reportedly changed her mind after learning that other women had come forward to detail their negative experiences with Dababneh.
Lopez described how she saw the door slam behind her, then turned around to see Dababneh with his privates exposed:
He had begun masturbating. I stared backing up and he moved toward me while he was masturbating and, in explicit terms, told me to touch his genitals while masturbating. And I thought, what do I do, what do I do? Make it explicitly clear that I do not want to be here and that there is no misunderstanding. So I said several times: No, I will not touch you. No, I will not touch you.
In a letter addressed to Assembly Rules Committee Chair Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova), Lopez wrote, “For nearly two years, I have lived in fear that I will be shunned or retaliated against if my professional community learns that I was sexually assaulted by a lawmaker. And that few caused me to remain silent, instead of seeking justice through formal channels in the legislature.”
Lopez added, “I am filing this report even though, through his attorney, Mr. Dababneh has tried to silence me by threatening to sue me for defamation if I persisted in reporting this assault.”
Last week, Democrat Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima) announced he was resigning immediately after six women made sexual harassment claims against him. Fellow Democrat State Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Cerritos) was stripped of his committee leadership positions over a series of sexual harassment allegations against him.
Also last week, victims of sexual harassment testified about their experiences to a group of Republican and Democratic legislators who agreed that the Golden State’s system for examining sexual harassment by lawmakers is deeply flawed and needs to be changed.
Lopez was one of the women to testify before the panel and spoke of Dababneh without revealing his name. “We are severely traumatized because we’e aware of how powerless we are,” she said, adding that the feeling from the experience was “absolutely crushing.”