I feel like there are so many stories to tell, so many small slights and injustices that you end up feeling like a second-class citizen in the Capitol. Including dirty jokes, wandering eyes, being excluded from meetings, being iced out, being told how pretty you are, comments on your body, etc.
I’ve been hit on by candidates and Legislators, I’ve been manipulated for sex by lobbyists while I was staff, I’ve been physically touched more times than I can count. But, here’s the story that stays with me:
When I was in my late 20s a certain Member took an interest in me. At first I thought it was a joke, but the Member asked his fundraiser to find out if I was single, I wasn’t. But, that did not stop him from seeking me out at every event, flirting with me and telling me I needed to come visit him in his office.
One day, I was on the floor due to a celebration. The rules had been suspended so lobbyists could be on the floor. I was standing in the back of the Chamber and the Member called me over to his desk.
I walked over and he said to me “I keep asking you to come to my office and you keep not coming. Promise me you’ll come and visit me in my office.”
I said I would, but knew I wouldn’t.
Around this same time, we were at a banquet and several Members were in attendance. I can still remember exactly what I was wearing - a skirt suit. I crouched down to speak with a female Member who was sitting down and when I stood up this Member and another Member were catcalling me and making it known that they were staring at my butt and they liked what they saw.
It was horrible to feel like I made a mistake, was I being “sexy” at work? I went back to my table and complained to my co-workers and we all just shook our heads.
After these incidents I avoided this Member. A significant amount of time had passed and I figured he’d forgotten about me; I knew I wasn’t special. I figured we would all go back to being professional.
I had to go and lobby him with two of my female colleagues and he proceeded to ignore me, look through me and act as if I wasn’t in the meeting. It was extremely uncomfortable and clearly a result of never visiting him in his office. I felt confused and embarrassed.
If I was “punished” by a Member for not engaging with him, I can only imagine what is happening to women who are forced to engage.
I never reported any of this and who’s going to believe you when you say a Member is ignoring you and icing you out? Who’s going to believe you when you say the Member made advances that I ignored and now he’s punishing me? No one will believe you, so might as well just keep it to yourself.