Lopez’s experience underscores what many women say they've gone through in the Capitol community. Since she has spoken up, Lopez has heard from numerous women with their own stories.
"I am so glad to see all of these women feeling like they can speak up and step forward and speak out," she says. "But it’s personally painful to hear the weight of how deep this problem goes in our professional community."
First-term Assemblywoman Laura Friedman wants to find out how pervasive the problem is. She chairs the Assembly subcommittee that's holding the first in a series of hearings on the issue on Tuesday. She has heard stories of Capitol staffers, lobbyists and even lawmakers being harassed and feeling like they had no recourse.
“People know it goes on," she says. "I think that a lot of staffers are unhappy with the fact that they feel that they’re at risk if they come forward or that nothing will happen, depending on who they are reporting.”
Friedman wants to establish a code of conduct with clear repercussions for people who violate it, including lawmakers. And she says the Assembly and Senate must work together to make sure they deal with complaints in a similar way.
Samantha Corbin helped organize the We Said Enough campaign, which started the recent sexual harassment conversation in Sacramento.
Legislative leaders agree with her that it’s time for a culture change in the Capitol. But in an environment that equates power with success, that change likely won’t come easy. Still, Corbin says it’s not impossible.
“There’s this perception that we’re powerless to change this, that we don’t know what can be done to change the policies and procedures to protect victims, and that’s simply not true," she said.
Corbin points to providing whistleblower protections, a confidential hotline for victims and counseling as immediate actions that can be taken.
While the Legislature is just beginning its discussion on sexual harassment, lobbyist Pamela Lopez is preparing to take her next step. She has so far refused to name the lawmaker who assaulted her, but says she soon will.
"I have reached a point where I am willing to bear the consequences," she says. "And I think it will be hard. I think, at least informally, I will be talked about and snickered at when I’m walking through the hall."