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California politician on sexual harassment: How do those with power fix the problem?

Calif. women in politics speak out
California's women in politics speak out against sexual harassment 03:15

Some Californian women in politics are speaking out against what they call "pervasive" sexual harassment. It comes in response to allegations of sexual harassment and abuse from dozens of women against disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

California is home to some of the country's most powerful women in politics, including its first female house speaker, Nancy Pelosi. But according to some women working at the state capitol, hidden beneath the veneer of the state's progressive image in Sacramento lies an ugly epidemic of sexual harassment, reports CBS News correspondent Bianna Golodryga.

As a lobbyist in Sacramento, Pamela Lopez says she's been a victim of sexual harassment. The most disturbing incident happened about two years ago.

"He rushed up behind me, rushed me into the restroom, locked the door behind him, rushed me into the restroom, locked the door behind him, exposed himself, began to masturbate, all in a matter of seconds," Lopez said.

Lopez, along with more than 140 other women, issued a letter blasting what they call "dehumanizing behavior." "Men have groped and touched us without our consent, made inappropriate comments about our bodies and our abilities. Insults and sexual innuendo, frequently disguised as jokes, have undermined our professional positions and capabilities," they wrote.

Lopez said sexual harassment is "very widespread for many women who work in politics."

Democratic state assemblywoman Cristina Garcia says a lobbyist grabbed her inappropriately five years ago and that's one of the reasons she signed the letter. Garcia said the issue of sexual harassment is not only non-partisan, it shouldn't even be just a women's issue.

"It's not our responsibility, it's not the victim's responsibility. It's how do those with power, how do they help fix this problem," Garcia said.

The fallout over the Harvey Weinstein scandal has prompted lawmakers around the country to tell their stories, from former South Dakota state senator Angie Buhl O'Donnell sharing her experience on Facebook to a Rhode Island state Rep. Teresa Tanzi who told the Providence Journal "I have been told sexual favors would allow my bills to go further," adding "it was someone who had a higher-ranking position."  Authorities are now reviewing her allegations.

"Everybody needs to take this seriously as something that is still way too common at work and requires bold action to solve," National Women's Law Center's Emily Martin said.

We asked some of California's top lawmakers about the letter and they all condemned sexual harassment. The women behind the letter are now turning it into a public campaign, creating a website where other women can share their stories.

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