Weinberg Workgroup on Harassment, Sexual Assault and Misogyny in NJ Politics Unveils Plans

Acting Governor Sheila Oliver today issued an Executive Order establishing a new interagency task force to provide advice and recommendations for strategies and actions to reduce incidents of hate, bias, and intolerance involving students and young adults.

Weinberg Workgroup on Harassment, Sexual Assault and Misogyny in NJ Politics Unveils Plans

Committee will use public forums, closed-door listening sessions and survey to develop initiatives to change toxic climate for women

Newark – Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and the Workgroup on Harassment, Sexual Assault and Misogyny in New Jersey Politics today announced plans to hold public and closed-door listening sessions and conduct an on-line survey as it develops recommendations to change the state’s political climate for women.

The Workgroup was created by Senator Weinberg in the wake of a Star-Ledger/New Jersey Advance Media report in which 20 women told of being groped, propositioned, harassed and even sexually assaulted while serving as campaign staffers, political operatives, legislators and lobbyists.

Senator Weinberg announced that the Workgroup would include a cross-section of trusted woman leaders with varied experience in campaigns, politics, policy and lobbying. The group currently includes:

·         Lieutenant-Governor Sheila Oliver

·         Alison Accettola, General Counsel, New Jersey Senate Majority Office

·         Laurel Brennan, Secretary-Treasurer, New Jersey State AFL-CIO

·         Elizabeth Coulter, Director of Public Health, Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey

·         Sonia Delgado, Partner, Princeton Public Affairs Group

·         Jeannine LaRue, Senior Vice President, Kaufman Zita Group

·         Sabeen Masih, Vice President of Public Affairs, Capital Impact Group

·         Lisa Randall, Commissioner, Bergen County Improvement Authority

·         Julie Roginsky, Co-Founder, Lift Our Voices

·         Christine Shipley, Executive Director, New Jersey Senate Minority Office

·         Patricia Teffenhart, Executive Director, New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NJCASA)

The workgroup issued the following mission statement:

Sexual violence is not innately a political or partisan issue, yet it disproportionately impacts women in the policy-making and political arenas. For this reason, this ad hoc committee of woman leaders in policy and politics will endeavor to lay a foundation for New Jersey to address the misogynistic culture that has made women’s involvement in policy and politics unsafe and unhealthy. Together, we will address issues relating to power, control, coercion, silencing, retaliation, side-lining, harassment and assault. Together, we will seek to create policies, practices, and accountability mechanisms with a shared vision for a safer, more equitable New Jersey.

Senator Weinberg said the workgroup has adopted a multi-layered strategy of public forums, closed-door listening sessions and an anonymous on-line survey to ensure that all voices are heard.

“Women need to know that they can come forward and share their experiences safely, privately and without fear of intimidation or retribution from those responsible for their harassment or assault, those with an interest in protecting the political careers or interests of those responsible, or those who encouraged or allowed a toxic political climate to develop,” Senator Weinberg said. “That is why we will be offering multiple avenues to lift all voices.”

Senator Weinberg said the Workgroup would hold several public forums to hear from women in politics, government and the public sphere about their lived experiences relating to harassment, sexual assault and misogyny, and on steps that can be taken to positively change the political climate for women.

The panel will also hold at least one closed-door listening session for women who need their participation in the process to be private, out of fear of exposure to their abusers, employers, associates or others.

In addition, the Workgroup is working with the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NJCASA) on its Survey on Misogyny & Sexual Misconduct in New Jersey Politics, which will serve as an on-line anonymous vehicle through which data can be captured to inform and develop policies to address the issue. NJCASA is the statewide non-profit organization dedicated to elevating the voices of sexual violence survivors and service providers, with an emphasis on policy and systems advocacy, training and capacity-building for New Jersey’s 21 county-based sexual violence service programs, other service organizations, allies and stakeholders.

The NJCASA survey will be distributed and advertised widely, including on the February 27-28 Chamber of Commerce train trip to Washington that was one of the events highlighted in the Star-Ledger article as being a particularly toxic event for women. The survey can be found here.

“It is important to have multiple avenues through which to hear from those impacted by misogyny, harassment and assault,” said Patricia Teffenhart, NJCASA’s Executive Director. “Our panel’s public forums will serve as guided discussions to hear from those interested in sharing their thoughts and perspectives to shape policy and reforms in this arena.  Confidential Sexual Violence Advocates from local organizations will be in attendance at each public forum to provide support and resources with complete confidentiality and anonymity for anyone interested in exploring personal pathways to justice and healing.”

Senator Weinberg said she reached out to a group of trusted women whose integrity and independence is beyond reproach to serve on the initial workgroup.

“We wanted to create a ‘firewall’ between the panel and the state’s male-dominated political power structure to assure women that we would truly be independent, that their voices would be heard, and that their confidentiality would be respected,” Senator Weinberg said.

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