The California Legislative Women’s Caucus this week outlined a series of goals to address problems of sexual harassment and retaliation at the state Capitol.
The caucus, which consists of all 26 female lawmakers serving in the state Legislature, called for unified action from two houses that are accustomed to acting independently. The goal is to develop bipartisan policies that make services available to victims, establish a confidential reporting system, hold perpetrators accountable and creating lasting change to the Capitol culture.
More immediately, the Women’s Caucus is asking leadership in the Senate and Assembly to contract with professionals to survey Capitol employees about their experiences with sexual harassment and assault and retaliation against those who come forward. The results would be released publicly.
“We will work with all partners to educate and empower a system where perpetrators of assault, harassment or retaliation are held appropriately accountable,” the caucus said in a statement. “We will be the bridge to ensure we move in a responsible and respectful way to cease the pervasive culture of abuse of power.”
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The caucus supported the establishment of an Assembly Rules Subcommittee on Harassment, Discrimination, and Retaliation Prevention and Response earlier this year and urged the Senate to do the same. The female lawmakers also called for a Capitol town hall to discuss the best way to create an independent reporting entity for the entire political community.
At least two sitting legislators have come under fire in recent weeks for allegations involving Capitol employees.
The Women’s Caucus had previously urged the Assembly to review Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra’s behavior after a longtime legislative staff member publicly shared that he stalked and groped her at an event in 2009. Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, the chair of the women’s caucus, has also said she would no longer work with Bocanegra or Sen. Tony Mendoza, an Artesia Democrat facing allegations that he behaved inappropriately to three women who worked in his offices.
Women who have experienced or seen sexual harassment in the Capitol are speaking out, but many fear the consequences of telling their stories.