Sexual Harassment on Beacon Hill is a Major Problem

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Sexual Harassment on Beacon Hill is a Major Problem

Just two days left for committees to act

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‘I’m going to debunk the blatant lie that the Speaker and his loyalists have propagated to emotionalize this issue and tug at the heart strings of Representatives and others whose desire is always to do right by the victim.”

That’s a quote from State Senator Diana DiZoglio at a press conference last week in favor of her bill (S.929) to ban the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and fight sexual harassment on Beacon Hill.

DiZoglio first brought the issue to attention in 2018, when as a State Rep, she decided to break her own NDA and speak out forcefully on the House floor against the practice of having victims of sexual harassment sign NDAs that silence them. DiZoglio recounted what happened after her 2018 speech:

“What happened to me when I came forward in the House of Representatives and exposed the fact that these NDAs existed? What happened? A plethora of Reps, that day all women, got up, and had prepared arguments to immediately shut me down without wanting to hear the other side, without ever having discussed the issue or responding to my multitude of requests to talk about the issue and to work on language to maybe reach a compromise. Instead what happened as soon as I came forward there was an immediate public shaming that occured.”

The House didn’t ban NDAs on that day in 2018, but when DiZoglio was elected to the State Senate, she was able to unanimously pass a ban on NDAs in the State Senate in February 2019.  A similar attempt in the house however, failed.

Do victims want NDAs?

The “blatant lie” that DiZoglio referred to was the idea that victims want and need NDAs to protect themselves and their privacy. On the face of it, it makes sense that a victim might want to protect themselves from others talking about their experience or making jokes.

But joining DiZoglio at the press conference was Gretchen Carlson, the whistle-blower who came forward at Fox News with allegations about Roger Ailes, then head of the company.  Carlson said:

Non-disclosure agreements were originally designed to safeguard the sharing of corporate secrets. But they’re not supposed to protect predatory behavior. My NDA means I’m legally prohibited from discussing what really happened to me. It means I can’t consult with filmmakers, journalists or anyone else telling my own story… The silence can feel suffocating… Buying silence instead of stopping harassment is immoral and unjust.”

DiZoglio’s bill, S.929, allows victims the ability to request that their identity be protected, but only at their own request. Another speaker at the press conference, attorney Mitchell Garabedian, said another option is to allow victims to request NDAs, but grant them the ability to revoke that NDA at any time. This would allow victims to protect themselves without silencing themselves as Gretchen Carlson recounted.

Take a stand against sexual harassment

The deadline for committees to report on bills before them is this coming Wednesday, and there are two important bills that need a vote before then:

  1. S.929 - DiZoglio’s bill which would ban the use of NDAs in the legislature &  ensure victims aren’t ever silenced as she feels she was.
  2. H.3572/S.1898 - Sabadosa/Rausch bill that would create an independent commission to deal with allegations of sexual assault in the legislature.  Earlier this session, when Rep. Paul McMurtry was accused of having groped a female colleague, he was cleared of wrong-doing by a secret committee made up of house members.  Such a committee can’t possibly be neutral.

Call your State Rep & State Senator, and ask them to do whatever they can to ensure these bills are advanced.  If they sit on the committee that has the bill, they should vote in favor of it.  If not, they should advocate for the bill’s passage with their colleagues.

You can look up your Reps & their contact info here:

https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator

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