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State Lawmakers Launch Investigation Into Alleged Sexual Harassment By Legislator

SACRAMENTO (KPIX 5) -- New allegations have surfaced detailing the widespread harassment of women who work at the California Capitol.

Senate and Assembly leaders say they are taking the matter seriously and they have reportedly launched an investigation.

The search is on for the legislator who attacked lobbyist Pamela Lopez.

According to Lopez, about two years ago one politician even got physical.

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

Lopez won't name the politician, but she's one of more than 140 women in state politics --Republicans and Democrats -- who have signed a letter blasting the "dehumanizing behavior" they face, saying "men have groped and touched us without our consent, made inappropriate comments about our bodies and abilities. Insults and sexual innuendo frequently disguised as jokes have undermined our professional positions and capabilities."

Lopez says it happens all the time.

Lopez said, "It's very widespread for many women who work in politics."

Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) said, "When I see the hashtag '#metoo' I'm like 'who not?'"

Skinner says she has experienced harassment at other workplaces and while she hasn't been subjected to it at the Capitol, she's not surprised, saying some representatives are far from home, and there are constant fundraising parties.

Skinner said, "The nature of the Capitol -- where you have concentrations of power, by men, and also the fact that we socialize -- there's a blur between our work life and our social life."

She says the Women's Caucus plans to work with the women who put together that letter, and others, to propose some changes at the Capitol.

Women are only 22 percent of the legislature and Skinner says the fact that most male politicians there are fellow Democrats doesn't change the power dynamic.

Skinner said, "It doesn't matter what party it is, it doesn't matter what ideology, it doesn't' matter what workplace, we see this happening pretty much everywhere."

Sabrina Demayo Lockhart says she endured sexual harassment at the California Capitol for more than a decade.

"I just thought it was the price of working in politics," Lockhart said.

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