Female Maryland State Leaders Demand Accountability

by Danielle Katz ’18

 The Maryland General Assembly Women’s Caucus released a report which details anonymous accounts of sexual harassment in Annapolis. The caucus released the report on the same day, February 16, that a new sexual harassment prevention commission created by the General Assembly’s presiding officers held its inaugural meeting.

 The Baltimore Sun described that the report, which reveals many of the inappropriate encounters, also includes previously announced recommendations on how to prevent sexual assault and harassment. The article provides an anonymous glimpse into what female lawmakers, lobbyists, and staffers describe as a “culture of unacceptable behavior” in the state’s capital.

 Female lawmakers have made tremendous strides in Annapolis, holding about one in three seats in the legislature, as well as multiple leadership positions. With these roles and inspired by the #MeToo movement, women in Annapolis are demanding change and looking to expand accountability.

 “The recent #MeToo movement has brought to light a culture in which sexual harassment is still pervasive, and its harm too often ignored,” Delegate Ariana Kelly, the Women’s Caucus chair, wrote in a letter which introduced the report to the Baltimore Sun.

 A few months prior to the rise of the movement, House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Thomas Mike Miller agreed to tweak the process by which complaints are processed and handled, including a promise that complaints will be tracked and an annual report about misconduct will be released. In January, shortly after the rise, the House Speaker and Senate President announced plans for the new sexual harassment commission. In an interview with the Washington Post, Maryland State Delegate Kathleen Dumais commented on the plan of action.

 “We were trying to shift the story to the improvements that we’re working on and the hard work of the women’s caucus,” said Dumais. “We are no way accepting the behavior that was described.”