Jessyn Farrell wants to see a profound culture shift in Olympia.
The former state legislator was one of nine women who spoke to Northwest News Network’s Austin Jenkins about experiencing sexual harassment while working in Olympia. Now, she wants those in power take a stand publicly and say that bad behavior at the capitol won’t be tolerated.
“We do need to modernize attitudes down there so that women are truly on equal footing,” she said.
Farrell spoke with KUOW’s Bill Radke about her experiences with sexual harassment in Olympia — and about why she’s decided to talk publicly about them.
Farrell previously talked to The Seattle Times about being touched inappropriately by a male lobbyist while she was walking to her office, but she said the #MeToo campaign on social media motivated her to speak out again.
“Seeing my friends and colleagues over and over and over again on Facebook come out and say me too really had a profound impact,” she said. “And, you know — me too.”
She said women often don’t speak out because they don’t want to rock the boat. She didn’t tell anyone about her experience because she was focused on her work and didn’t want anything to interfere with her legislative agenda.
There was also a small part of her that wondered at first if she’d done something wrong.
“I was shocked that it happened in the workplace,” she said. “I also felt a little ashamed, I think. So often with these stories and these things that happen, women internalize it. That initial thought was, did I do something wrong? And obviously I didn’t, but that was a thought that crossed my mind.”
She said women often feel they have little recourse, especially if they’re being harassed by someone in a position of power.
“The fundamental element of sexual harassment is about power and diminishing women’s power,” she said.
Farrell was one of just two women who agreed to be named in the Northwest News Network story. And none of the alleged harassers were named publicly, since there aren’t any known formal complaints or investigations.
“These are really big issues,” Farrell said. “One thing I’d love to do is talk to some of the other women. It’s potentially a career-wrecking things to say. And it’s a he-said, she-said story. And we know too often what happens in those he-said, she-said stories. The she-said part of it is discounted.”