As Capitol is hit by “me too” reports of sexual harassment, will lawmakers make changes?
By Laurel Rosenhall, CALmatters
Nanette Farag was a new staffer in the state Capitol, an eager 25-year-old who aspired to a career in politics. So she quickly obliged when a fellow aide—a man with a lot more seniority—suggested they walk up to his office for a meeting.
Once they were alone in an empty stairwell, she recounted, he grabbed her rear end—and then, moving closer, said he just couldn’t stop himself from touching her. She punched him. Then she ran away. What she did not do, ever, was report the incident to the Rules committees that run operations within the Legislature.
“It was just kind of known: You don’t want to be one of those girls who say these things happen,” she explained, recalling what happened 15 years ago. “The girls who make these accusations don’t get ahead. I was young and ambitious and I wanted to be taken seriously.”
Farag, who now works for the Assembly Republican caucus, is among those sharing her story for the first time as scores of women who work in Sacramento call for an end to what they describe as a culture of sexual harassment that permeates the male-dominated state Capitol. They have come forward with stories of being propositioned, groped and assaulted by male colleagues and bosses—including fellow staffers, lobbyists and, yes, legislators. A common theme is the belief that they can’t identify their attackers for fear that doing so will harm their careers.
What unleashed this torrent of revelations was an open letter signed by some 150 female lawmakers, lobbyists, consultants and political staffers in the wake of mounting sexual assault allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. “As women leaders in politics, in a state that postures itself as a leader in justice and equality, you might assume our experience has been diﬀerent. It has not,” the […]