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Women In California Politics Describe Culture Of Harassment

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

The California State Capitol on September 12, 2017.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

An outcry against pervasive sexual harassment and assault that has gone viral on social media under the hashtag #metoo has also reached the California state Capitol.

More than 150 women who work in state politics have signed on to a letter published Tuesday by the Los Angeles Times

The letter describes a culture of harassment and belittlement by powerful men, none named. The signatories include prominent lobbyists, lawmakers and staff. 

"Two weeks into me being an Assemblywoman, I got groped, and then I was told by a senior member not to say anything," says Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, a signatory who also co-chairs the Legislative Women's Caucus.

Garcia describes a similar dynamic in Sacramento as what’s emerged in Hollywood, where women worried allegations against Harvey Weinstein would jeopardize their careers.

"When these people have so much power and you’re so dependent on it," Garcia says, "You feel like it’s the cost of doing business here and that’s what I have to put up with."

The authors of the letter have also set up a website, wesaidenough.com, where they plan to publish anonymous stories from the Capitol.

"I hope now that with so many women coming forward talking about the magnitude, there will be a bigger sense of urgency, there will be bigger changes that happen," Garcia says.

Hear reporter Ben Bradford's full interview with Asm. Cristina Garcia

"A lot of times we're told we're crazy, or we're overreacting," says Garcia. "People have refused to work with me, because I've been outspoken about this stuff and felt really uncomfortable being around me, so it definitely has consequences for a member."

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