HomeLearning CenterReport on Sexual Harassment in State Government Reveals Pervasiveness of the Issue 

Report on Sexual Harassment in State Government Reveals Pervasiveness of the Issue 

Originally published in Weekend Reading on Women’s Representation by Cynthia Richie Terrell for MS. Magazine

A new report released by the National Women’s Defense League titled “Abuse of Power: Uncovering a Decade of Sexual Harassment in State Government” reveals that sexual harassment by sitting state lawmakers over the last decade is pervasive and ongoing: At least 130 statehouse lawmakers were accused of sexual harassment by 359 individuals in 45 states since 2013–with actual numbers likely three times as much due to underreporting by survivors and legislatures. The report makes clear that sexual harassment by state lawmakers isn’t a single-party issue or an anomaly–it’s a systemic and underregulated abuse of power in every statehouse across the country.

Here’s what to know about the new report’s findings:

  • Both parties are to blame: Sexual harassment is not exclusive to one party, though both parties attempt to leverage it as a partisan issue. Members of both political parties commit sexual harassment at a nearly equal level.
  • Little accountability or reliable recourse: Nearly 60 percent of lawmakers attempt to remain in office immediately after an accusation of sexual harassment, and in 55 percent of the incidents identified, no official action was taken against the accused elected official.
  • A problem in all 50 states: The report identified specific lawmakers accused of sexual harassment in 45 states and stakeholders in the remaining five states who spoke to the problem of sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is a problem that continues to put hundreds of people’s safety, professions, and well-being in jeopardy. In a cultural moment of reconciling the power dynamics in workplaces across the country, and despite an uptick in public reports and media coverage of unchecked harassment by lawmakers in recent years, little research has been done to identify the magnitude and scope of sexual harassment in political and government workplaces.

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