It’s possible you’ve already seen some news coverage about allegations of sexual harassment against State Senator Jeff Kruse (Roseburg) involving two female Senators and other Capitol staff, lobbyists and interns. Last week, an independent report was released outlining these allegations and other actions by those in the Capitol. The report includes many concerning details.
As is true in many workplaces, women working in Oregon’s Capitol experience inappropriate conduct, touching, harassment and intimidation. Our Capitol does not have a culture that supports women in speaking out, or of adequately responding when they do. They do not have sufficient systems in place to quickly address concerns, to ameliorate harm, or to protect women from further harassment.
Women shouldn’t have to be brave to go to work in any workplace. We shouldn’t have to do a thing to be safe while there. We shouldn’t have to figure out how to physically distance ourselves from an abuser. We shouldn’t have to enlist our colleagues to protect us from our co-workers. We shouldn’t have to forego participating in parts of our job because we fear being alone with a co-worker or supervisor. We shouldn’t have to fear retaliation or intimidation from a superior for coming forward. We shouldn’t have to leave our jobs to escape this. And we shouldn’t feel forced to just accept harassment as the price we pay to keep or do our jobs. We simply shouldn’t have to suffer this way in order to have a job or to participate in civic life.
The women in this particular case experienced ongoing harassment for years — behavior that may have gone on quietly and indefinitely had the situation not become more public in the press recently, incurring enough public scrutiny and outrage to finally address it. And, it should be said that it was only made more public, despite it being an “open secret” in the Capitol, because some of the brave women experiencing this harassment came forward with their stories.
Finally, this particular Senator did resign, effective March 15th — but only as a direct result of pressure from many to do so. He needed to resign, and he needed to do that much sooner. But this action, at this point, is simply not enough. His resignation was necessary, but it is not sufficient to addressing much deeper systemic issues.
As an organization, we work very hard to bring women into the civic systems and structures that create the rules that impact us, and this means sometimes bringing them into the Capitol, too. Our Capitol is one of the places where decisions will be made for us about how and when we get to care for our families if we work, about how we access our healthcare, about whether programs we depend on will be funded, and, yes, about what even counts as discrimination, harassment and intimidation under law. This is the place where our rights as Oregonians are established. And we deserve to be there, and to be safe there.
There are already so many barriers to women being able to fully participate in civic life, to being part of the process, to holding elected office — to all of it. At a minimum, the people in charge should be doing everything in their power to ensure that women are safe in our own Capitol. Or we need to have different people in charge.
That’s why we’re asking sincerely for your help today. Please email your own legislator and demand a deeper investigation into the failures of current Capitol procedures and rules, and for an impartial process to rewrite them – led by those who are impacted by these issues, and not entirely controlled by those who failed to use their power to effectively protect and empower women.
Please also consider sharing with them your own experiences of intimidation or harassment at work, because the problems at the Capitol don’t exist only there, and these are the people responsible for setting the rules that could protect the rest of us…or that won’t.
We can no longer be silent. Time’s up, Oregon.