Statement Applauding Efforts to expose sexual harassment in Illinois state government

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 19, 2017
Contact: Alexa Mauzy-Lewis, Camino PR
212.255.2575 / alexa@caminopr.com

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Today, House Speaker Michael J. Madigan introduced legislation to expand sexual harassment protections in state government offices. Madigan also announced the creation of a task force on sexual discrimination and harassment to be led by Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie. During a hearing before the House Personnel and Pensions Committee, Denise Rotheimer publicly testified that Sen. Ira Silverstein, majority caucus whip, had sexually harassed her. In an interview, Silverstein denied the accusation and stated “I will apologize if I made her uncomfortable.” Since her testimony, more evidence continues to come to light.

Rotheimer’s testimony and Madigan’s announcement of the bill are part of recent efforts to expose the prevalence of sexual harassment in Illinois state government and to bring about change. Last week, Rep. Sara Feigenholtz filed a resolution to disrupt the culture of misogyny in Illinois politics and beyond.

The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, KAN-WIN and Apna Ghar issued the following statement:

“We admire and support the bravery of Denise Rotheimer. Coming forward regarding sexual harassment is difficult and risky in any context and even more so when the harasser holds power and influence. The courage of Denise and many women who have come forward recently, across the country, has been the catalyst to bring about real cultural change. We also applaud the tenacity of our elected representatives who are actively working to confront the issue of sexual harassment in state government. House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, Rep. Chapa LaVia and all the legislators who supported their motions are demonstrating that we will no longer tolerate misogyny in government or politics.

“Despite the progress made today, sexual harassment is prevalent; it is ingrained here in Illinois, in Hollywood and in every city and town across the country. We are seeing a new surge of empowerment, from breaking silence and sharing stories to condemning perpetrators of sexual violence. The momentum cannot stop here. The movement must continue and we urge all legislators and organizations to support Denise Rotheimer and any victims who come forward with their experiences.

"Sen. Silverstein’s response that he apologizes ‘if [he] made [Rotheimer] uncomfortable’ is unacceptable and illustrates the way in which men in power regularly belittle and demean women when they come forward. We demand that Sen. Silverstein take responsibility for his behavior, issue a real apology and face real accountability for his words and actions.

“We look forward to the urgent work of the task force led by Rep. Flynn-Currie and to a broad initiative that includes stakeholders of every race and ethnicity. Thirty percent of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women report experiencing sexual violence (not including rape) in their lifetime. AAPI women face our own cultural and societal barriers to reporting sexual assault and accessing services and resources. It is incumbent upon our government officials to provide a new standard and establish culturally competent resources, services and care, so that nobody is left without the support they need.

“We must continue to trust and support all women that come forward and we call upon our Springfield legislators to do the same. Our lived experiences combined with real policy change can transform a culture that allows extreme discrimination and violence against women. We call on the nation to follow the example set by Illinois today and foster change for women across the country.”


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The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) is the only multi-issue, progressive, community organizing and policy advocacy organization for Asian American and Pacific Islander women and girls in the U.S. NAPAWF’s mission is to build a movement to advance social justice and human rights for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women and girls.

Apna Ghar, Inc. (Our Home) is a Chicago based social services organization that provides holistic services and conducts outreach and advocacy across immigrant communities to end gender violence.

KAN-WIN is an Illinois-based social service organization whose mission is to eradicate all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence and sexual assault, by empowering Asian American survivors and engaging the community through culturally competent services, community education and outreach and advocacy.