“This is basically a self-investigation," she says. "That’s tricky, and that’s risky for women who’ve already said they don’t want to come out.”
The hierarchical structure of the Capitol seems to provide little incentive for women to take action when there’s a problem.
Attorney Mary-Alice Coleman says she has spoken with many women about possible harassment claims around the Capitol over the years. But she’s only been involved with litigation for three. She says the power dynamics prove too intimidating for most women.
“If an Assembly member or a senator is involved, that complicates the accountability a hundred fold," she says. "And it makes the situation much more difficult and perilous for the victims.”
And women don’t seem to be reaching out to their HR departments either. Debra Gravert is the chief administrative officer of the state Assembly, which oversees about 1.200 employees. She says the Assembly investigated three sexual harassment claims last year.
“But then you have this letter that says it’s prevalent. So it doesn’t equal what we we’ve seen," she says. "It’s frustrating and disheartening.”
Still, Gravert says she believes the Assembly has a good process in place for responding to the complaints it does receive.