March 8, 2023
Dear members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Senate:
The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape applauds members of the House for adopting House Resolution 1, establishing new rules to strengthen non-discrimination, retaliation, and sexual harassment protections in Pennsylvania’s State House.
We are heartened to see sexual harassment protections apply to “any individual” who may be victimized—not just elected officials or individuals employed by the General Assembly. This is of critical importance, given the volume of victims, advocates, lobbyists, reporters, students, and members of the general public visiting the Capitol each day.
PCAR extends its concern and support to Andi Perez, who recently came forward to disclose she had been sexually harassed by a seated, elected member of our legislature. We thank Perez for her courage and stand with her and other survivors and advocates to strengthen sexual harassment protections for others. Making a public report of sexual victimization is difficult; it is even more daunting for survivors hurt by public figures. They often must endure intense public scrutiny while also coping with the effects of trauma. They do all this at the same time as they navigate complex decisions related to their victimization, in addition to their everyday responsibilities and duties.
Perez has said, “every worker deserves safety on the job, and that includes safety from sexual harassment.” PCAR could not agree more.
Sexual harassment is pervasive and unlawful. It encompasses a continuum of acts and behaviors including unwelcome sexual advances, unwanted contact and touch, offensive remarks and name-calling, lewd gestures, sexually explicit emails and images, and other behaviors that target a person’s sex or gender. Workplace harassment affects victims, their loved ones, and all of us- we all suffer when people are unable to innovate, contribute, and put their best effort forward at work, because they are traumatized and undermined by sexual harassment.
Eighty-one percent of women and 43% of men have experienced sexual harassment at some point in their lives.1 Up to 85% of women and 19% of men have experienced these assaults in the workplace.2 The costs of sexual harassment are estimated at $300 million in job turnover, sick leave, and decreased productivity.3
These are very real struggles, worsened by the fact that many survivors experience retaliation when they speak out about mistreatment in the workplace.4 This means that, despite the prevalence of sexual harassment, most victims suffer in silence. In fact, 85% of sexual harassment victims never file a formal legal charge and 70% never make a formal complaint through their employer.5 Instead of reporting, most victims either quit their jobs or find ways to alter their schedules to avoid the harasser. The most common concerns victims express are rooted in fear and shame:6 no one will believe them, there won’t be any action, they will be blamed for causing the harassment, they will face humiliation and social retaliation from their peers, and they will face professional retaliation, such as damage to their careers or reputations.
We want to remind survivors that help is available. Rape crisis centers provide confidential counseling and support 24 hours a day at our hotline: 1-888-772-7227. Best practices are available to us as we continue to work together to inform public policy and systems of response. Today, PCAR and the network of rape crisis centers call on members of the legislature to continue to use their leadership platforms to take action against sexual harassment and to support a range of options for survivors, both inside and outside the Capitol. We invite you to partner with us as we mobilize best practices in sexual harassment prevention and response throughout the Commonwealth.
We urge lawmakers to mobilize rules and pass legislation that clearly demonstrate that safety from sexual harassment is a right we all share and that sexual harassment, abuse, and assault will not be tolerated in the Commonwealth’s workplaces—including the legislature. No one should be forced to endure harassment in exchange for a paycheck.
Karen Baker, LMSW
Chief Executive Officer
1 Stop Street Harassment, Raliance, & Center on Gender Equity and Health, A National Study on Sexual Harassment and Assault (Reston: SSH, 2018)
2 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace: Report of Co-Chairs (Washington, D.C.: EEOC 2016)"
3 EEOC, 2016
4 Lilia Cortina & Vicki Magley, Raising Voice, Risking Retaliation (Journal of Occupational Health Psychology: 2003)
5 EEOC, 2016