Women sign letter against sexual harassment at state capitol

South Bureau Chief Drew Mikkelsen reports.

More than 170 women – including lobbyists and lawmakers – have signed a letter calling for a culture change at the Capitol when it comes to dealing with sexual harassment.

"We want there to be a path where we want people to feel they aren't working in a hostile environment," said Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, who signed the letter.

Monday's letter says that as "women serving and working in the legislative and political realm, we add our voices to the chorus of 'enough.'"

The group says they "stand together to change a culture that, until now, has too often functioned to serve and support harassers' power and privilege over protection of those who work with them."

Sen. Ann Rivers, R-Clark County, also signed the letter and helped get colleagues’ signatures.

"The overall message is, look, if you're doing this, stop," said Rivers. "Don't do it anymore, it's not appropriate, and no one feels good about it."

The letter comes a week after four women said publicly that former Democratic Rep. Brendan Williams sexually harassed them. Also last week, leaders at the Washington state House acknowledged that the reason for former Rep. Jim Jacks' resignation in 2011 was because of allegations of inappropriate behavior toward a female staffer.

A statement written by leaders of the House Democratic Caucus said they appreciated the letter.

"Every person who works on legislative matters...needs to feel safe," read the statement, "And we must do more."

The statement made note of a work group that was recently set up to deal with harassment "head-on."

"Together we can make this change a reality," read the statement.

Governor Jay Inslee also wrote a letter to agency employees Monday and asked agency leadership teams to review their policies on sexual harassment to ensure agencies were improving their expectations around workplace culture.

© 2017 KING-TV


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