Columbus—Ohio lawmakers and staff members joined State Senator Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus) in releasing the following open letter about sexual harassment.

In the past few weeks, sexual harassment has been a topic of national conversation. Millions of Americans were shocked to learn of sexual harassment in the entertainment industry fueled by stories of Harvey Weinstein and others who allowed his behavior to continue. Now, the conversation has shifted to the pervasive sexual harassment that exists within state legislatures across the nation. Reports of misconduct have come from state capitals in California, Illinois, Iowa, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon and Rhode Island. I am disappointed to my core to acknowledge that our own Ohio Legislature is also on that list.

This behavior is not a joke. It is not playful banter. It is not flirting. This behavior exploits an elected position of power to create a hostile and intimidating work environment for women whose jobs are often in the hands of the perpetrator. This behavior is especially despicable because in situations outside the workplace, such as a bar, a golf course, a restaurant – though still illegal and disgusting – a woman is usually able to walk away from these unwanted advances. However, a woman’s job is how she earns a living to support herself and her family and a sexual predator in the workplace has now made that job unsafe, unstable, and unbearable for that woman to come to every day.

I am here to tell you that as a legislative body of officials elected to serve our constituents, we are not doing enough.

Although a start, sexual harassment training will not be enough to change the culture. In 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) conducted a task force study on harassment in the workplace and found that, while trainings may help participants understand what constitutes workplace harassment, there’s no good evidence that trainings change attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.

If we want to end harassment, we must work to close gaps in gender equality, increase the number of women in the legislature and in leadership roles, and continue to convey that we have zero tolerance for harassment in our legislature. That said, my team and I are working on a piece of legislation designed to address these issues.

As leaders in the community, representatives have an obligation to hold themselves and their colleagues accountable for their actions. I am encouraging all those who have experienced or witnessed sexual harassment in the workplace to speak out.

Women in the workforce are often afraid of retaliation, reputational harm, mockery, ridicule, being blacklisted, intimidated, or even fired. Rather than focus on the actions of the oppressor, we must acknowledge the brave victims that have come forward to expose these scandals and we must believe them! As legislators, we encourage our constituents to elect representatives whose values reflect integrity, accountability, and humility. As well as hiring staff who reflect those same values.

The hard truth is that every single woman you know has a story to tell. Every. Single. One.

I, along with the undersigned legislators and staff, are calling on all elected officials, state employees, constituents, and especially women, to intervene and to demand better. The undersigned include both women who have experienced sexual harassment and women who have not experienced sexual harassment. It represents women who are committed to creating a welcoming and safe environment. 

 

Senator Charleta B. Tavares               

Senator Sandra Williams

Representative Brigid Kelly

Representative Catherine D. Ingram

Representative Emilia Strong Sykes

Representative Janine R. Boyd

Representative Kathleen Clyde

Representative Kristin Boggs

Representative Michele Lepore-Hagan

Representative Nickie J. Antonio

Representative Stephanie D. Howse

Representative Tavia Galonski

Representative Teresa Fedor

Andrea Costin

Bethany E. Sanders

Cayla Burton

Chelsea Golterman

Cindy Peters

Emily Underation

Giulia Cambieri

Hope Lane

Jaehla Meacham

Julia Wynn

Kayla Lewis

Kelly Kefauver

Kaneeka Dalton Paul

Moriah Lieberman

Margaret M. Palmer

Megan Seitz

Sarah A. Cherry

Serena Finlay

Sara Owens

Terese Herhold

Taylor Rae Phillips

Whitney Kennard

 
 
 
  
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