Survey finds sexual misconduct rampant in New Jersey politics
TRENTON — Nearly two-thirds of women and more than a quarter of men who responded to a survey on sexual harassment and misconduct in New Jersey politics say they have been harassed, with elected officials the most common culprit.
More than 500 people responded to the survey conducted by the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Thirty percent of female respondents said sexual harassment is extremely prevalent in New Jersey politics, compared with 11% of males.
“This report lays bare that we have a major issue with misogyny and harassment in New Jersey government and politics,” said Patricia Teffenhart, executive director of NJCASA.
In all, 57% of respondents said they have experienced harassment such as sexual remarks, sexist or misogynistic comments, unwanted touching or gestures or persistent, unwanted invitations of a sexual nature.
“That number is simply unacceptable,” Teffenhart said. “We’re calling on our leaders now: stop excusing bad behavior. Make changes today that can help prevent violence in the future. The data is clear – business as usual can no longer be accepted.”
The 27-question survey was launched in January and closed in April. Participation was voluntary and anonymous. Seventy-eight percent of respondents identified themselves as female.
The report included a sampling of responses received to an open-ended question:
“The biggest problem is that they all think they’re one of the good ones. They’re not one of the good ones: they’re just one of the ones.”
“My “boss” would have just said it was consensual because I did not stop him, but it cannot be consensual when one is an employer and the other is an employee. He had all the power, the name, the position – so I kept quiet.”
“It’s everywhere. It’s everything.”
“If I’m brutally honest, I’d probably not report it. I have zero faith that the outcome would be positive. It never is. Even if everyone feigns support for the victim, they’re now considered ‘difficult.’”
Some of those responses were critical of the survey and the idea behind it:
“Women who use sexuality as a tool to get ahead, then complain when they get ‘sexually harassed,’ have nothing to complain about. The difference between ‘sexual harassment’ and flirting is most often based on the looks of the ‘harasser,’ and that’s just not fair.”
“Men rule the industry. Learn from history. Women should be seen and not heard. Short skirts still get the job done at the Statehouse.”
“This survey and entire narrative is a fallacy and a farce. Many of these women are ruining men’s lives and careers based on hearsay, and that is unacceptable.”
Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.