Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Editorial: Coming Forward about Sexual Harassment

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Editorial: Coming Forward about Sexual Harassment

Article excerpt

The release of an avalanche of sexual harassment and assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein (starting with an investigation published by The New York Times in early October) has launched a nationwide conversation about sexual misconduct. And the stream of high-profile allegations continues: from author/news analyst Mark Halperin to actor Kevin Spacey to screenwriter/director James Tobak. Meanwhile, victims have been emboldened to tell their stories, with the words "me too" becoming a ubiquitous expression of solidarity and sign of how widespread the problem is.

Over the past week, The Kansas City Star has been reporting allegations of sexual harassment - as well as other forms of inappropriate behavior - at the Kansas Statehouse.

According to Abbie Hodgson, who served as chief of staff for then-House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs in 2016, interns sometimes gave Democratic lawmakers rides home after they had been drinking at parties and dinners. Hodgson says this concerned her because some male lawmakers were "predatory toward women," and she says she was the victim of harassment herself when a lawmaker propositioned her for sex at a fundraiser in 2015. Elise Higgins was a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood from 2014 to 2017, and she claims to have experienced sexual harassment several times at the Statehouse.

In a Kansas City Star article published on Oct. 31, several former interns recounted sexual harassment while working at the Statehouse - from a Republican representative boasting about having sex with young women to demeaning comments overheard about a female staffer's body to a senator asking an intern, "Hey, do your panties match your outfit?"

All of these allegations are extremely disturbing, and lawmakers need to be held accountable for any unprofessional, sexist or menacing behavior. This is why, given how oblique many of these reports have been, Senate President Susan Wagle was right to urge victims to come forward: "The problem we run into with these incidents is, people are unwilling to name the perpetrator. …

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