What there is to know
- Nearly a dozen witnesses told a New Jersey panel examining sexual misconduct and misogyny that better training was needed to end the misconduct.
- The Task Force on Harassment, Sexual Assault and Misogyny in New Jersey Politics held the premiere of what is expected to be at least three town halls on Tuesday in Fort Lee.
- Senate Democratic Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg set up the panel after a December report that cited dozens of cases of misconduct, including trial and error, unwanted advances and even assaults.
New Jersey politics, among other things, need better sexual misconduct prevention training to end widespread misogyny, according to nearly a dozen witnesses speaking at Tuesday’s first town hall meeting. a traveling panel on the ill-treatment inflicted on women.
The Task Force on Harassment, Sexual Assault and Misogyny in New Jersey Politics held the first of what are expected to be at least three public meetings at Fort Lee on Tuesday. The panel is chaired by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and included Democratic Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver and 11 other women from across New Jersey politics. Weinberg set up the panel after a December report on NJ.com that cited dozens of cases of misconduct, including trial and error, unwanted advances and even assaults.
Tuesday’s hearing lasted over two hours and heard from nine women and one man. Many witnesses spoke of the need for better training that went beyond simple online courses and instead included interactive situations to better replicate real life.
Among the witnesses was Deborah Cornavaca, Deputy Chief of Staff to Democratic Governor Phil Murphy. Cornavaca said the governor was determined to change the culture in state politics. Murphy promised in his State of the State address last month that he would work on the matter, although he was not specific.
“I think we have to recognize that if the current trainings on sexual harassment and discrimination were sufficient, we would not yet be mired in decades-old problems,” said Cornavaca.
Amanda Richardson, an attorney for Harding, said she only got involved in Democratic politics recently after President Donald Trump was elected, and as a young mother she found out that a lot of politicians took place in bars after official meetings, which made it difficult for her. -the breastfeeding mother to attend. She said she was “shocked” by the harassment in person and online against the women she met. She said there should be an “independent reporting mechanism” to relay misconduct to the right channels.
But it’s not always clear what those channels are, testified Melissa Grace Hallock, who said she has been involved in local politics in Essex County for years. She said she had seen a number of cases, but expressed frustration at not knowing who to report what she had seen or heard, including obvious cases of human trafficking.
The most moving testimony came from a woman who said she was groped and the victim of unwanted sexual touching by a former public service running mate. The Associated Press generally does not identify people who claim to be victims of sexual assault.
Fighting back tears, the woman said she was also berated by the man, who was not identified at the hearing, despite his public displays of support for women’s issues.
“I wonder how long we are expected to be silent,” she said.
Helen Archontou, CEO of the Bergen County YWCA, which runs a sexual violence resource center, said that in addition to training, people should report misconduct when they see it. She called for a ‘see something, say something’ approach.
“We really have to create this culture,” she said.
A witness singled out Democratic Senate Speaker Steve Sweeney. Fran Ehret, a union official in the public sector, said she was at an event with Sweeney when he stood up and told her that if she was a man they would settle the argument they were having “at hand. ‘outside”.
Sweeney in a telephone interview neither confirmed nor denied this claim, instead claiming that Ehret was the “leader” in the heckling against him when he called for reforms to pensions and public workers’ health benefits. and that she had “no credibility at all”.
The panel is expected to release a report and hold two additional public hearings, one in southern New Jersey and the other in the central part of the state.
“This is just the start,” Weinberg said.