Only New Legislators will Change Beacon Hill Sexual Harassment Culture

CHANGE SEXUAL HARASSMENT CULTURE BY CHANGING SENATE COMPOSITION

Senate President Stan Rosenberg stepped down late last week amid a much-publicized sexual harassment scandal involving his husband Bryon Hefner. The one-party dominance on Beacon Hill allowed the harassment to go unchecked for years. Senate Democrats embraced Rosenberg as their leader despite his connection to a man whose unwanted sexual advances were an "open secret" according to Boston Magazine. Instead of appropriately dealing with the problem in a timely manner, people working in and around Beacon Hill were subjected to inappropriate workplace behavior and threats to their advancement if they did not comply.

Unfortunately, Bryon Hefner is not the only perpetrator in the statehouse. There are dozens of cases of sexual harassment that have gotten little or no attention because state legislators are not subject to public records disclosure laws. Without full access to documents legislators are free to use non-disclosure agreements to cover up misbehavior and almost guarantee that it will continue happening. No one has taken responsibility or made apologies for this grievous lack of oversight. Elected officials need to be doing more to ensure the safety of our workers. They must provide an environment where victims are comfortable telling their stories and are guaranteed that they will be taken seriously by law enforcement. Without this option they could be swept under the rug by politicians more worried about winning the next election than the well-being of their associates and staffers.

One powerful way to eliminate cover ups is a change in perspective, which can only come with new legislators. Currently, only 25% of our state legislators are women. There are 11 women in the Senate making great strides by introducing bills like S2203, which eases the process for reporting sexual violence on college campuses. Now it is time to do more for those working in and around Beacon Hill.  Margaret Busse, state senate candidate for the Middlesex-Worcester district, said of the situation “The best way to change the culture on Beacon Hill is to change the composition of the legislature.” She is on track to become the 12th female Massachusetts State Senator and is committed to being an agent of change so that the Massachusetts statehouse can be a shining example of workplace culture that has no tolerance for predatory behavior.