MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A three term Minnesota State representative says she’s been the target of repeated sexual harassment at the State Capitol.
Representative Laurie Halverson, (DFL) Eagan, said she’s speaking out because of what she described as routine harassment by lawmakers from both parties.
“We’re not going to take it anymore,” said Halverson, who also serves as the Assistant Democratic Minority Leader in the House.
Halverson says the harassment began in 2015 and has continued, “many times” ever since.
“I had a legislator tell me that he was thinking of me when he should have been thinking about his wife,” she said. Another time, “I had a legislator say that he wanted to kiss me.”
Halverson is among a growing number of female lawmakers who say they’re tired of staying silent.
She told WCCO that she’s experienced many unwanted sexual advances to her, and tried to ignore it.
This year: she said she was forced by a lawmaker — with another lawmaker and a lobbyist present — to look at a cellphone image of a man’s genitals.
“Against my will,” she said. “I was saying, ‘Don’t show it to me! Don’t show it to me!’ And it was shown to me. My blood ran cold and I said, in my head, I wanted to run, but I had to stay there and hold my ground.”
When Halverson objected, she says the lawmaker publicly shamed her.
“The response I got was, ‘Hey Laurie, I thought you were cool,'” she said.
“I had trouble meeting the eyes of my colleagues the next day. I had trouble sleeping that night. I had to talk to a colleague and say this happened to me and I am so upset by it.”
Halverson won’t name the harassers, and won’t file a complaint. She says it could end her political career at the Capitol.
“As soon as I report and name a name, the story turns right around on to me,” she said. “And the questions turn right around on to me. ‘What did she do? What was her role in this?’ And my role was nothing!”
Last week two other women filed complaints against Democratic State Senator Dan Schoen and Republican State Representative Tony Cornish.
Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt suspended Cornish as chair of the House Public Safety Committee.
The House is also launching an outside, independent investigation into Cornish’s alleged actions, which he denies.
Meanwhile, Democratic Governor Mark Dayton ordered a review of state government sexual harassment policies.
“No one should be subjected to the harassment and assaults that have come to light in recent days, nor suffer from the fear, shame, and mistrust that result from such acts. Every victim should trust that they have the support and tools they need to report these offenses, without fear of reprisal or further pain and suffering,” the governor said.