In an unprecedented move, the Arizona House of Representatives has voted to expel Representative Don Shooter (R-Yuma) over a series of sexual harassment allegations.
Nine women have detailed a pattern of sexually inappropriate remarks and lewd behavior that a House investigation found credible evidence for.
Shooter reportedly “openly behaved in a crass manner” and did so “unchecked by his peers for years,” reports the Arizona Central.
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“His repeated pervasive conduct has created a hostile working environment for his colleagues and those with business before the Legislature” read the final report on Shooter’s wrongdoings, which ranged from commenting about women’s chests, inviting himself into their offices with alcohol, crude jokes, sexist remarks, and exposing himself to staffers.
It will sadly come as no surprise that the report revealed that Shooter’s deplorable behavior is just the tip of the iceberg; a culture of sexual predation and discrimination pervades the Arizona legislature from top to bottom.
“Certain male lobbyists do hire young women to go into the lion’s den, if you will. I think in a lot of ways, we have been stuck in time” says Rep. Lela Alston (D-Phoenix).
Shooter himself confirmed as much when he complained that he was being singled out while the misdeeds of his colleagues were being ignored in a bizarre letter that prompted his censure by the legislature for “a clear act of retaliation and intimidation, and yet another violation of the House’s harassment policy.”
Shooter’s letter tells the tale of appalling behavior by one of his colleagues, demanding that his punishment be postponed until justice had been served for everyone – a shameless attempt to use another woman’s pain to try and excuse his own behavior.
“I have respect for those who had the courage to come forward whom I have wronged, because I know it has not been easy. They have paved the way for so many others to feel empowered and to educate those of us who just didn’t understand.
“Which is why I am writing today. Not to preserve myself but to honor one woman who reluctantly came forward even though she was terrified about the consequences of speaking the truth. With limited means, she hired an attorney and faced the biggest fear of her life because ultimately, she dared to believe that she did not deserve to be sexually harassed and when people heard what she had endured, these private humiliating experiences would be exposed and she would know that she would never again have to quietly and gracefully endure such conduct.
“She did not contact the media. She contacted and met the independent investigator. It was the hardest thing she has ever done in her life. Yet inexplicably, the pattern of outrageous conduct that she described, including comments allegedly made directly to her by her elected boss, as well as being exposed to her boss’ exposed genitalia, were not detailed in the report.
“What has been done to her, by omitting her story and not giving it the respect it deserves, you disgrace the mission of the sexual harassment investigation committee and our chamber. No matter what happens to me, this young woman deserves better. The process matters. The truth matters, the process must be fair and complete.”
It’s clear that there needs to be some serious institutional reform within the Arizona legislature – and one shudders to think of how many other women in statehouses across the country must struggle with this culture of sexual harassment and misogyny in their workplaces.