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‘We Said Enough’ Co-Founder Discusses What’s Next In Anti-Sexual Harassment Movement

February 13, 2018 1:40 p.m.

‘We Said Enough’ Co-Founder Discusses What’s Next In Anti-Sexual Harassment Movement

GUEST:

Adama Iwu, co-founder, We Said Enough Foundation

Related Story: ‘We Said Enough’ Co-Founder Discusses What’s Next In Anti-Sexual Harassment Movement

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

>>> Women are saying times up, #MeToo, and We Said Enough over sexual-harassment. Where does the movement go from here? That is one of the issues that will be discussed at a forum at the University of San Diego tonight. The end -- event will approach the issue from any angle -- angles including personal experience. One of the members of the cofounder of the We Said Enough foundation and one of time for Tatum -- time magazine's person of the year, Adama Iwu. Welcome to the program.
>> Thank you for having me.
>> The act that started the We Said Enough movement was an open letter you sent last October. It called out the rampant harassment culture in Sacramento. What did you think would result from that letter?
>> The letter came from myself, from a place of deep frustration with the political scene that I lived in. I felt like I was so angry. It seemed like the right time to see if other women felt the same way I did. It turned out that they did. It was not just women who are lobbyists. It was elected officials worked in the administration, women in media and the press. We were all angry. We were all fed up. To be honest, I thought this would have a chilling effect. I thought it would put people on notice that we are tired of this behavior. We are tired of struggling and having to work around this, laugh it off, brush it off. It turned out to be something that was a lot deeper than I anticipated.
>> When did you see that sort of coming together, the fact it was not going to be a chilling effect thing but would spark something?
>> I knew that we can. People assumed that this was something that had been worked on. It happened organically over 3 days. We started with a letter on Friday afternoon. I started calling my friends on Friday evening and asking if they would sign onto the letter. Women started to say, I will absolutely sign on. Can you add this? Can you change this? Can you make sure it reflects this experience? As we were doing that, women started to realize this is an opportunity for us to have a holistic voice that encompasses the entire political community and the full spectrum of experiences from those who are staffers, to those who are female elected officials and what we experience. As they were doing that, they were telling me, I will send your letter but here is why. They started to share very personal experiences of things from garden-variety, annoying sexual innuendo to outright rape and assault. These were things that happened within the political environment and that is when I realized this was not just a letter.
>> You have said that in some ways, the situation around the capital -- how the capital handles sexual misconduct and harassment is worse today than it was before the whole We Said Enough #MeToo movement.
>> What you do not know, you are insulated from. Before this, people were filing. There were complaints about sexual-harassment. We did not hear about it. You knew people filed things. You knew some people got payouts. You knew some people ended up not working in the capital again. It wasn't not a thing that had any light shed on it. Now we know that is happening. Within the last week, we passed this whistleblower bill that guarantees protections of anti-retaliation to people who come forward and make complaints. Now that that is in place, we know that more people have started to come forward. Now we know there is a huge lake within the system. This is something we told legislators in December. You have to figure out a system that works, that ensures confidentiality, that reduces risk of all types of lawsuits of safety, of confidentiality. You have to figure that out. This is just going to just keep happening. People do not feel safe. They are coming to us with things and then they are going directly to the press. You have to figure this out. We have not. We continue to have things as people make complaints. We know that they leak out of the rules committee immediately and sometimes in the capital community and other times directly to the press. That is concerning.
>> There is an -- a sad irony. We learned that Christina Garcia who appeared with you in time magazine was one of the silence breakers and is herself under investigation for sexual met -- miss comment. Garcia denies the allegations. What is your reaction?
>> I am not going to lie and say it doesn't hurt and that is it is not compute -- confusing. I know the assemblywoman very well. I cannot comment on an open investigation but what I will say is it is very appropriate that she is taking an unpaid leave voluntarily while the investigation moves forward. They are very serious allegations. We support victims wholeheartedly. It is incredibly painful and difficult to come forward. When you say what has happened, it makes you vulnerable and makes you feel for your -- fear for your job and all kinds of things. It is only made worse when you make a complaint, you file a complaint, you tell someone, in this case, the young man told him Majority Leader. Assemblyman called Rhonda the right thing. He reported it. It was around the capital for a week and then we see it show up in the press. That happens before the victim was ready to talk about it. He was not make -- ready to make that public and at that point he had to talk about it because reporters were calling him. That is incredibly painful and inappropriate and reprehensible.
>> Without minimizing the victims who are male, the overwhelming number of victims of sexual harassment in Sacramento and in other places are female. I am wondering if you have a sense that even with major policy changes, the culture is what is the underlying problem. Would you agree?
>> Yes, I do. It is not just Sacramento. This is really about power and control. You do not see that only in Sacramento. You do not see that only and politics. You see this in every industry. The whole thing is about culture. Policy helps set the tone no matter what it is but there has to be a general understanding that people will be held accountable for their actions.
>> Now that you have mentioned that this issue is tied up with the fact that women are underrepresented as lawmakers in both the state and federal governments, do you see that as a fundamental change as a goal of We Said Enough?
>> Yes, I have felt strongly that we do need to have more women working in politics. I feel, not just because it is going to fix this, but you need to have different voices involved in public policy. I do not think you can make good policy when you have these very homogeneous legislators. I do not. To me, that has always been a goal.
>> Adama Iwu will be on the panel tonight at eight form on sexual harassment sponsored by the San Diego Tribune and the USDA law school. It is free and starts at 6 PM at the Kroc Institute for peace and justice. Thank you very much.
>> Thank you.