In the spring of 2016, during my first month as a full-time staff member of Citizen Action of New York, I traveled up to Albany for a lobby day. Before I shifted to politics, I was the team’s Communications Associate. On that day, my job was to amplify member stories on social media and introduce myself to the Legislative Correspondents Association (LCA). The people at the LCA were friendly but not very interested in getting to know a temp communications associate when budget negotiations were taking place. With nothing to do there, I ended up spending most of the day with Citizen Action and Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) members.
I followed them to their lobby visits, lunch breaks, and then a rally that took place on the million-dollar staircase. When the rally was over, a few of us stayed back to catch our breath and recap the events. The energy was calm but optimistic, as community members and leaders recalled their favorite moments and talked about the next steps. Our easy conversation was halted, when one of our younger members started to raise her voice. It’s been a couple of years, so I don’t remember the sister’s name, but she couldn’t have been any older than 19 years old, and according to her a random guy in a suit had walked up to her and squeezed her butt. When she confronted him, he dismissed her and walked away. By the time we realized what was going on, the assaulter was gone.
I was the only staff person present and didn’t really know how to handle the situation. After she told me what happened, we told a capital police officer, but since we didn’t know the assaulter’s name, and the description of “a guy in a suit” wasn’t enough, they weren’t able to help much. I remember two things very clearly from that day. First was the feeling of violation and anger that was on the young lady’s face. The next was my lack of interest in doing anything else to assist this young woman. In my mind, the capital was a known cesspool of creeps and sexual harassers. While I felt bad that she had been violated, I dismissed it as the price for entry into New York State Politics.
Whenever a story comes out about harassment, abuse, or assault against women taking place in Albany that memory and my horrible judgment/attitude rise to…