New bills will address reporting by elected officials witnessing sexual harassment
- New York 05/13/2019 by Rebecca Myles (WBAI)

“Sexual harassment is not a compliment and those reporting sexual harassment are not rats,” Bronx Councilman Ritchie J. Torres on the steps of New York City Hall on Tuesday.

“Growing up there was a code of silence on the streets known as Stop snitching but a code of silence is not to empower the victims it is meant to protect the perpetrators, and so those who are speaking in favor of silence as Council member Diaz has done are speaking not on behalf of victims of sexual harassment but are speaking on behalf of victimizers.”

Torres called for the press conference following an outburst by Bronx Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr., during a City Council sensitivity training session.  During the training a lawyer asked elected officials what they would do if they were standing in an elevator and they see a chief of staff sexual harass a subordinate. Diaz Sr., told the room he wouldn’t be “a rat”

Torres along with Manhattan Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal is sponsoring legislation. Rosenthal’s would require lawmakers who witnessed sexual harassment to report it to the Equal Employment Opportunity.

“A superior to a subordinate, sexual harassing a subordinate in every agency, every elected office, and the EEO would report to the public to the number of reports that have occurred and the number of ongoing investigations, those substantiated and the consequences of those cases,” said Rosenthal who said she left two jobs when she was 27- years-old because she was sexual harassed.

“We should treat the reporting of sexual harassment with the same urgency that we treat the reporting of corruption and fraud, we should have the same zero tolerance for sexual harassment that we have for corruption and fraud,” Torres.

His legislation would have instances of sexual harassment reported to Department of Investigations (DOI) and have it treated like reports of abuse or corruption.

“Reporting to DOI we are expanding the meaning of abuse to mean sexual harassment specifically to elevate the seriousness of the reporting,” said Torres.

Joining Council members Rosenthal and Torres was Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization of Women New York City, who said those elected to office should be held to highest standard.

According to Martha Kamber CEO and President of YWCA Brooklyn, only 10 percent of sexual harassment in the workplace is reported.

“It is not wonder employees are afraid to come forward. As many as 60 percent of those who report sexual harassment in the workplace state they were retaliated against after they reported the harassment,” said Kamber. “What we don’t know is the total economic loss from sexual harassment in the workplace.”