OPED: Us too: State government must fight sexual harassment
In recent months, men in media, government, Hollywood, and elsewhere have been rightly removed from their positions of power due to sexually inappropriate and, in some cases, criminal behavior towards women.
Unfortunately, Harrisburg is not immune to this type of repulsive and unacceptable conduct.
There have been disturbing stories of threatening and abusive behavior towards female elected officials, reporters, lobbyists, advocates, and staffers.
I thank these women for speaking out and I know there are many more victims of sexual harassment and abuse in the Capitol who have never come forward — many due to fear of reprisal from their colleagues or superiors.
No one should ever be put in a position of danger and we cannot accept this as normal or OK.
We need to strengthen our laws, but we also need to make sure that everyone working in and visiting our Capitol knows how they can report abusive behavior.
If anyone feels threatened, in any way, in our Capitol, you should feel empowered to report it to the Capitol Police.
However, I understand that part of what keeps victims from coming forward is being unable to do so anonymously. That's why I've tasked my staff to work on a means to anonymously report inappropriate behavior that occurs.
And we have to rid the Capitol of those who seek to take advantage of their position and power. That's why I'm supporting two legislative measures to try to fix this mess and hold harassers and predators accountable.
State Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Berks, and Senate Democrats, recently announced legislation to ban non-disclosure agreements (NDA) in cases of sexual assault and harassment that make it easier for serial predators to continue their patterns of abuse.
In the state House, Democratic Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky has outlined a proposal to ban NDAs that mask elected officials' names, prohibit using taxpayer funds for settlements, and add protections so victims aren't forced to work alongside their abusers or go without legal representation.
These proposals have my support and I urge the legislature to take up these measures and vote on them as soon as possible.
As we face issues of sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace, we must not forget the pervasiveness of the issue on our college campuses.
Under my leadership, Pennsylvania became the first state to take on the It's On Us challenge to stop campus sexual violence.
And I am proud that we are teaming with universities and providing funding and education to make our schools safe. But there is more to do.
We have to make sure that all Pennsylvanians feel welcomed and protected in our Capitol that belongs to the people of Pennsylvania.
We need to include more diverse voices — particularly women — in positions of power and decision-making, particularly the General Assembly, where Pennsylvania ranks near the bottom in terms of gender diversity.
We need to hear Pennsylvanians' voices on the issues in their communities, and if they feel unsafe, we need to make sure they have outlets to make their voices even louder.
From cat-calls and inappropriate stares to intimidating words and predatory behavior, we need to speak out and, most importantly, listen to victims so we can act to stop sexual harassment.
Across the country, victims are speaking out with #MeToo posts and organizations are taking real action to bolster prevention and penalties for harassment. I hope that every elected official in Harrisburg and beyond will join me in saying "Us, too" by taking action.
It's time to change Harrisburg's culture, and it's time to make the Capitol a place where everyone feels safe and welcome.
Tom Wolf, a Democrat, is governor of Pennsylvania.