In a show of rare bipartisan unity in the heavily deep blue State of California, Republican and Democratic legislators agreed on Tuesday that the Golden State’s system for examining sexual harassment by lawmakers is deeply flawed and needs to be changed.
Five women provided two hours of emotional testimonies before the Assembly Rules Subcommittee on Harassment, Discrimination, and Retaliation Prevention and Response about their own experiences with sexual harassment in the Capitol.
“Does anyone here believe that the current policy is working?” Republican Assemblyman Vince Fong (R-Bakersfield) asked, according to the Associated Press. Democratic Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), the committee chair, reportedly said the Assembly should no longer be allowed to police itself when it comes to harassment.
The hearings took place the day after State Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima) announced that he will resign immediately in response to sexual harassment allegations made against him by six women. Breitbart News reported that soon after his announcement Democrat activist “Bonnie Corwin, who was one of the foremost voices in pushing for Bocanegra’s resignation, announced her intention to run for his seat.”
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that on Tuesday, several women told the State Assembly committee that the capitol’s sexual harassment policy protects the guilty, and allows records of investigations to be discarded long before the accused lawmakers leave office, which essentially protects and shields guilty “rapists.”
“I had anxiety and panic attacks for years from harassment as a young woman,” Sacramento lobbyist Pamela Lopez said, according to KQED. Lopez was reportedly the first victim to testify on Tuesday. “We are severely traumatized because we’re aware of how powerless we are.” She said the feeling from the experience was “absolutely crushing.”
About two months ago, Lopez reportedly said, she was pushed into a bathroom during an event outside the Capitol by a yet-to-be-named legislator who had unzipped his pants and was masturbating.
Alicia Lewis, one of the female victims who testified on Tuesday, tweeted, “In today’s Assembly hearing I ditched my talking points and spoke from the heart. The Capitol’s handling of harassment complaints has been offensive to not only victims but flies in the face of CA’s value for transparency and public accountability.”
In today’s Assembly hearing I ditched my talking points and spoke from the heart. The Capitol’s handling of harassment complaints has been offensive to not only victims, but flies in the face of CA’s value for transparency and public accountability. #WeSaidEnough #MeToo #CaLeg
— Alicia Lewis (@sosaysalicia) November 29, 2017
“What everybody here knows is that we have rapists in this building,” Christine Pelosi, chair of the California Democratic Party Women’s Caucus, board member of We Said Enough, and daughter of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), said during the hearing. According to the Chronicle, she added, “We have molesters among us. We find out through the whisper network. People do tell. People do talk. They just don’t come forward.”
We Said Enough is a nonprofit that recently launched a campaign to raise awareness about sexual harassment and abuse in the Golden State’s Capitol.
The Assembly will reportedly conduct additional sexual harassment hearings in January. The state Senate has reportedly not scheduled a hearing to review its own policies.