Raul Bocanegra

Name: Raul Bocanegra

Age: 46 (in 2017)

Role: CA State Assemblyperson

Accusations

Seven women – Elise Flynn Gyore, Sylvia Castillo, Jennifer Borobia, Camille Pili-Jose and 3 women who asked to remain anonymous – were sexually harassed by Bocanegra from 2009 – 2014.
The LA Times, Nov 17, 2017, by Melanie Mason and Dakota Smith
The Sacramento Bee, Nov 20, 2017, by Alexei Koseff

Elise Flynn Gyore, who worked as a staffer for a state senator at the time, alleged that Bocanegra “put his hands into her blouse” outside of a bathroom at a night club in Sacramento in 2009. She reported it to the Senate sargeant the next day. The Senate sargeant immediately opened an investigation which concluded that it was “more likely than not that Mr. Bocanegra engaged in [that] behavior that night.”

While Bocanegra claimed at various times that he “learned his lesson” from the incident – and promised he wouldn’t do it again – he went on to harass six additional women:

Sylvia Castillo, describing an incident in 2010 with Bocanegra: “He grabbed me with one hand, grabbed my head and shoved his tongue into my mouth,” Castillo said in an interview this month. “With his other hand, he put it up my dress. I put my hand down to stop him from trying to grab at my crotch.” Castillo knew Bocanegra, as she worked as a coordinator for a student mentorship program in Sacramento.

Jennifer Borobia, a former staffer for Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, said that starting around 2009 and continuing for multiple years, Bocanegra began asking her out on dates via email and text. She said he would tell her she was pretty and make other comments about her appearance. She rejected the invitations, but worried rebuffing Fuentes’ chief of staff too strongly could threaten her job.

Camille Pili-Jose, who also worked for Fuentes at the time, was at a birthday lunch for Guzman in 2012. Everyone was drinking, and when after much prompting Pili-Jose took a shot, Bocanegra put his hand on her stomach. She was so startled and flustered, she spit out the shot.

Later that same afternoon, Bocanegra removed a bracelet from a different staffer’s wrist, put it in his front pocket, and told her to retrive it. Multiple people witnessed both incidents. Gabriela Correa witnessed both incidents, and immediately lost enthusiasm for her work as a result, and was soon reprimanded for poor work performance.

Bocanegra’s Resignation Statement:  

“I did not want to undermine the credibility of any accusers so that each of us would have access to a fair due process. I believed in our system of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and that the truth would come out clearing my name and reputation,” he wrote. “But clearly, the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ has been temporarily lost in a hurricane of political opportunism among the self-righteous in my case – to the detriment of both the accuser and the accused.”

In her own words: Women of California politics tell their stories

Here are selected stories from the more than 140 women who signed a searing open letter about a culture of sexual harassment in Sacramento, released in mid-October, 2017.

The Los Angeles Times, Oct 29, 2017, by Chris Megerian, Melanie Mason, Dakota Smith and Jack Dolan

Jessica Yas Barker, Director of corporate relations for Ovation, an independent television network

“The campaign manager said we should go out for my birthday. I assumed he meant a group of us from the office. At his house, no one else was there. He grabbed me by both of my shoulders and tried to kiss me. I realized he didn’t want to be my friend or mentor; he just wanted sex.”

~ Jessica Yas Barker

Amy Thoma Tan, Director of public affairs at Kaiser Permanente

“I was 22, straight out of college. Some of our senior staff and funders were guys who would make comments like ‘yeah, I’ll approve your press release if you take your shirt off’ or they’d make jokes about my body.

“When I quit and moved to Sacramento, one of the guys said, ‘Your work was good, but what I’ll miss the most is your tight butt.’

“I don’t think I even knew at the time that that wasn’t OK. If I had known that, I’m not sure who I would’ve gone to because it’s a problem all the way up.

“If something happened now, I have 15 years of work and relationships to back me up. At that time, I was so desperate to prove myself. It was just terrifying. Or you just think, this is the way the world works, and that’s what I have to endure to work in the world.”

~ Amy Thoma Tan

Paula Treat, Lobbyist

“In the early 80s, I went out to dinner with a legislator who chaired a powerful committee.

“I was going to get in my car. He reached over and started kissing me. I said, ‘No. This isn’t my idea of what kind of relationship we should have.’

“He said, ‘Well, fine then. If you don’t sleep with me, I’m going to kill all your bills.’ I got in the car and locked the door.

“And then he killed a whole bunch of my bills. He made my life pretty miserable for about a year.”

~ Paula Treat

Cynthia Bryant, Executive director of the California Republican Party

“A lobbyist kissed me on the head every time he saw me for an entire year in my last government job at the Department of Finance.”

“It’s disgusting. It feels gross. You roll your eyes and cringe inside and then you laugh it off and say, that’s OK. But it’s not OK. It’s unwanted physical touching, and it’s harassment.”

~ Cynthia Bryant

Tina McKinnor, Operational director, California Democratic Party

A very powerful elected official walked up behind Assemblywoman Burke [for whom McKinnor was the Chief of Staff] and rub her shoulders at a dinner, intimately.

“I didn’t know what to say to this guy so I turned around and looked at him. I gave him the ‘older black woman’ stare. I made him so uncomfortable that he stopped.”

No one said anything, she said.

“It made us angry. But surprisingly not angry enough to speak up. It was an accepted behavior, which it shouldn’t have been. What we did is, we just avoided the person.… As a staffer, it hurts that’s the staffing that you had to do.”

~ Tina McKinnor

Adama Iwu, Government affairs manager for the western U.S. for Visa

“Men feel they have the right to grab you, tell really lewd stories in front of you.

You have to act like one of the boys. You absolutely — in order to be trusted and be part of the crowd — you have to act like one of the boys. So you laugh off lewd jokes, you laugh off sexual innuendos, you make excuses for men.

“One boss congratulated me on my new job, saying, ‘We’re so thrilled with you, Adama, We knew you had great relationships, but we never expected you’d be able to grasp the subject matter the way you have.’

“I just looked at him thinking, ‘You thought I was just a pretty face.’ Those kinds of things really do wear on women. Those aren’t the things that they would say to a man.”

~ Adama Iwu

Lindsay Bubar, Los Angeles-based political consultant

“I’ve taken meetings that I thought were professional get-togethers, only to discover he had different intentions.

“If you call out that type of behavior, you’re faced with hurting the relationship with someone that you need to have a relationship with, someone you need to have access to.

“When you have more women in [elected] office, you shift the balance of power. No longer is it men who are harassing or assaulting women and women feeling like they can’t speak out for fear of losing their seat at the table.

“Now, it’s the women who have the power in that dynamic.

~ Lindsay Bubar

Amber Maltbie, elections attorney and chair of the board of Emerge California

I was having a networking dinner five years ago with a legislator’s chief of staff when he swooped in behind me and went in to kiss me.

“I was thinking, ‘How do I get out of this graciously without embarrassing him because I need this relationship down the road?’ ”

~ Amber Maltbie

Roxanne Gould, lobbyist

“The state assemblyman, a member of the banking committee, was sitting in an auditorium before a speech. I sat down beside him to ask if there was anything I could do for him before his presentation.

“The only thing you can do for me is give me a good f—.’

“He was an ultra-conservative family man, and the coarseness caught me off guard.

“More typical examples of unwanted attention are the legislator who ran his foot up and down my leg under a table, or another who kept texting me messages such as, “Am I too fat? Too skinny? Are you too pretty? Am I not good enough?

“That’s not as egregious, but these are people in power making it far too difficult to do your job.”

~ Roxanne Gould

Matt Dababneh

Name: Matt Dababneh

Age: 36 (in 2017)

Role: Member of the California State Assembly

Accusations: Pamela Lopez, a Sacramento lobbyist, alleged that Dababneh sexually assaulted her. According to Lopez, in 2016 Dababneh pushed her into a Las Vegas hotel bathroom, masturbated in front of her and urged her to touch him.

Jessica Y. Barker, who was Dababneh’s subordinate when they both worked in US Congressman Brad Sherman’s District Office, also came forward and accused Dababneh of sexual harassment. Barker asserts that she has talked to other women who Dababneh has also harassed.

Nancy Miret, 26, spent time with Dababneh over two months in late 2013, primarily at his Encino apartment. They had consensual sex on one occasion, but after that, Miret said she had multiple nonconsensual sexual encounters with Dababneh. “If you’re saying ‘No, no, no, no,’ and you stop and then you’re quiet, you still never gave consent,” Miret said. LA Times, Dc 14, 2017, by Melanie Mason

Jenn Kang said Dababneh was her supervisor in 2004 when, as an 18-year-old just out of high school, she worked on the Kerry campaign in a Pasadena field office. She alleged that Dababneh exposed his penis to her and asked her to touch or perform oral sex on him. He told her he had feelings for her, and asked if she was a virgin. “I wanted to jump out of my skin,” she said. LA Times, Dc 14, 2017, by Melanie Mason

Carrie McFadden, who worked with Dababneh when he was the Chief of Staff for Rep Brad Sherman, said Dababneh would regularly talk about his sex life during his frequent visits. He once offered her a raise if she could convince a UCLA student to have sex with him. McFadden did not report the incident to her boss, but she confided in two friends. LA Times, Dc 14, 2017, by Melanie Mason.

Immediate Consequences:  On December 5, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced that the Assembly Rules Committee would hire an outside law firm to investigate the incident described by Pamela Lopez, and Dababneh would temporarily step down as chair of the Assembly Banking and Finance Committee.

Dababneh’s Initial Response:  Dababneh announced his resignation effective Jan 1, 2018. He said it wasn’t because of the allegations, but just because he had lost interest in being a lawmaker. Dababneh has strongly denied the accusations and threatened to file defamation lawsuits against his accusers.

Updates & Developments

August 27, 2018: Legislative investigation substantiates sexual misconduct complaint against ex-Assemblyman Matt Dababneh, LA Times, by Melanie Mason

Don Shooter

Name: Don Shooter

Age: 65 (in 2017)

Role: Arizona State Legislator

Accusations: Nine women, including State Representatives Michelle Ugenti-RitaWenona Benally and Athena Salman and Mi-Ai Parrish, publisher of the Arizona Republic, have accused Shooter of sexual harassment.

Immediate Consequences:  On February 1, 2018, the Arizona House of Representatives voted 56-3 to expel Rep. Shooter. The House approved a resolution stating that “the House of Representatives finds that Representative Don Shooter’s pattern of conduct was dishonorable and unbecoming of a member.”

Shooter’s Initial Response:  

Shooter’s Evolving Response

Zach Fansler

Name: Zach Fansler

Role: Alaska State Rep

Accusations: Hit an unnamed woman hard enough to rupture her eardrum, during a drunken sexual encounter, The Juneau Empire, Jan 25, 2018

Immediate Consequences:  Fansler resigned effective Feb 2, 2018, KTOO.org, by Andrew Kitchenman

Fansler’s Initial Response:  He said he believed his behavior was a part of consensual kink/bdsm bedroom play, according to texts between Fansler and the woman the next day

Fansler’s Evolving Response: Fansler pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree harassment. He received 10-day suspended sentence and a year of probation, KTOO.org and Alaska Public Media, June 21, 2018, by Andrew Kitchenman

Dean Westlake

Name: Dean Westlake

Age: 57 (in 2017)

Role: State Senator, Alaska

Accusations: Seven women who are current or former aides at the Alaska Capitol say a member of the state House of Representatives repeatedly made unwanted sexual advances toward them or otherwise behaved inappropriately during this year’s legislative sessions, Anchorage Daily News, Dec 9, 2017, by Julia O’Malley

The women, who asked not to be identified for fear of professional repercussions, described Westlake giving lingering hugs, making sexual comments, asking for dates and touching them inappropriately.

The only woman who spoke on the record is Olivia Garrett, 23. She described Westlake’s inappropriate behavior in a letter to the Speaker of the Alaska State House, Bryce Edgmon, on March 13, 2017. Westlake’s behavior continued after this letter was received.

Immediate Consequences:  Westlake was asked to resign. After initially resisting, he submitted his resignation letter on Dec 15, 2017

Westlake’s Initial Response:  He refused calls for his resignation, asserting that his “friendly or funny” overtures were not interpreted the way he had intended and apologizing. Anchorage Daily News, Dec 12, 2017, by Julia O’Malley

Westlake’s Evolving Response: When he finally resigned he said: “Some people are angry with me; more are disappointed. I am too. To the women who came forward, thank you for telling your story. I am inspired by your bravery, and I am sorry for the pain I have caused. To my constituents, I am sorry to have let you down. These allegations do not reflect who I am, nor who I want to be. I will learn from this experience and be a better man because of it.” Read full text of Westlake’s resignation here.

Systemic Change: House Speaker Bryce Edgmon and House Majority Leader Chris Tuck encouraged “all victims to come forward and make a formal report.” They further said in a statement,

“It has become clear through this process that the Legislature’s culture, policies, and institutions do a poor job of protecting workers,” Tuck said, according to the statement. “We are committed to designing and implementing a clear policy to train every legislator and staff so there is no confusion about putting it into practice. This is crucial to restoring faith in the institution of the Alaska Legislature.”

Jennie Willoughby

Jennie Willoughby is a writer, speaker, teacher and singer whose message is one of forgiveness and redemption – both for one’s self and for others.

Jennie first described her abusive marriage to Donald Trump‘s Staff Secretary Rob Porter in a post for her blog, Pull of Grace, on April 24, 2017 – almost 6 months before Harvey Weinstein was exposed in The New York Times by Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor.

The first time he called me a “fucking bitch” was on our honeymoon. (I found out years later he had kicked his first wife on theirs.) A month later he physically prevented me from leaving the house.

Less than two months after that, I filed a protective order with the police because he punched in the glass on our front door while I was locked inside. We bought a house to make up for it.

Just after our one year anniversary, he pulled me, naked and dripping, from the shower to yell at me.

Jennifer Willoughby, “Why I Stayed”, 4/24/17

But what had happened – and prompted Willoughby to write her post, as she relates on the podcast interview – is that President Donald Trump – who has himself been accused by some 65 women of sexually inappropriate behavior – had named Porter to be his Staff Secretary on Jan 20, 2017. While it’s not a position that’s prominent in the eye of the public, it’s a position that holds incredible power. The Staff Secretary sees every single piece of paper before it lands on the President’s desk. It’s an appointment that requires a security clearance.

So as part of their routine background check, the FBI had reached out to Willoughby (as well as Porter’s first ex-wife, Colbie Holderness). As a result of what Willoughby and Holderness told the FBI about Porter’s abuse (and possibly for other causes as well), he had been denied a security clearance for a full year. Yet he remained in his extremely influential White House position.

It wasn’t until Feb 6, 2018 – a year into the Trump administration – that The Daily Mail broke the story in which both Willoughby and Holderness went publicly on the record about how their ex-husband Rob Porter had abused them.

Porter resigned from his post the following day, despite continuing to insist the allegations were false.

President Trump, Chief of Staff John Kelly, and many others in the administration continued to vociferously defend Porter, revealing the extent and the depth of the misogyny within the current leadership of the Federal government.

In response to some of John Kelly’s ignorant statements, Willoughby penned this piece in the Washington Post on March 9, 2019, “I was married to Rob Porter. Here’s what John Kelly doesn’t get about abuse.”

Kelly’s comments serve to diminish the significance of emotional abuse. Granted, it is difficult for any outsider to understand what takes place in a marriage. But Kelly’s dismissive remarks about my having suffered only “emotional abuse” grossly understate the seriousness of this conduct and the trauma it inflicts. It is insidious, demoralizing, paralyzing. It is real.

Jennie Willoughby, The Washington Post, 3/9/19

Shortly thereafter, Porter tried to “come back” by writing an innocuous-seeming piece about foreign policy for the Wall Street Journal.

In response, Willoughby penned this piece for the Washington Post on March 21, 2019, with an accompanying 6-minute video.

“I don’t believe Rob should be forever barred from using his considerable professional skills and knowledge to make a contribution to our society. 

But … Rob has yet to publicly show regret or contrition for his actions. Giving him a voice before he has done that critical work elevates his opinions above my and Colbie’s dignity.”

Jennie Willoughby, The Washington Post, 3/21/19

Mark Halperin – the former journalist who fell to #MeToo allegations of his own – saw Willoughby’s post about redemption and reached out to her. Halperin, it turns out, had recognized the harm he was doing to women more than a decade ago, and had sought therapy at the time. Now that the world had learned of his shame, he sought Willoughby’s counsel as to how he could redeem himself in the eyes of the public.

Jennie agreed to meet with Mark several times for in-depth conversations over the course of about a year. These conversations culminated in the following interview, produced and published by Mark and his team.

Jennie and Julia discussed all of this and a whole lot more for the podcast. You can listen to it on the website, which is also where you can read the transcript.

Colbie Holderness

Colbie Holderness wrote this op-ed in the Washington Post on Feb 12, 2018 – 6 days after the Daily Mail broke the story that both she and Jennie Willoughby had been abused by their mutual ex-husband, Donald Trump Staff Secretary Rob Porter.

It was largely a response to Kelly Anne Conway’s assertion that because Hope Hicks is a strong woman, she won’t get hurt by Rob Porter, who she’s now dating.

Holderness’ point is that strong women get taken in by abusers all the time. And that also, it requires a lot of strength to survive an abusive relationship.

Rob Porter

The Daily Mail broke the story on Feb 6, including on the record statements from both ex-wives, Colbie Holderness and Jennie Willoughby.

The story was corroborated on Feb 7 by The Intercept, which also gave detailed accounts from both women: https://theintercept.com/2018/02/07/rob-porter-wives-abuse-trump-aide/

His first wife, Colbie Holderness, released pictures of herself with a black eye that she alleges Porter gave her by punching her in the face.

Colbie Holderness, with a black eye given her by her then-husband, Trump’s Staff Secretary Rob Porter

CNN reports that it was “widely known” by dozens in the White House, including Chief of Staff John Kelly, that the reason Porter wasn’t getting a security clearance is because he had abused both his ex-wives. This speaks to the culture of misogyny that runs rampant through a segment of the United States; a segment which currently controls the White House.

Porter resigned on Feb 7, after the photo of the black eye surfaced. He gave a statement to Axios:

“These outrageous allegations are simply false. I took the photos given to the media nearly 15 years ago and the reality behind them is nowhere close to what is being described. I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims, but I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign.”

“My commitment to public service speaks for itself. I have always put duty to country first and treated others with respect. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have served in the Trump Administration and will seek to ensure a smooth transition when I leave the White House.”

Porter’s response, and that of everyone around him in the White House, has been to vehemently deny the allegations, despite the photographic proof.

Tanya Selvaratnam

Tanya speaks in her own words here: What Happened After I Shared My Story of Abuse by New York’s Attorney General, in the New York Times, Oct 6, 2019

Ms. Selvaratnam is a multi-accomplished professional:

She is also a woman who spent a year in a physically and psychologically abusive romantic partnership with Eric Schneiderman.

Selvaratnam met Schneiderman at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in the summer of 2016, after which she began dating him. They were together through the fall of 2017, during which time he routinely abused her, both physically and emotionally, according to reporting by Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker in May of 2018.

He says they almost never had sex without him beating her. He would slap her, choke her, spit on her. He demanded that she have scars removed. He called her his “brown slave.” He routinely drank more than a bottle of wine a night, and took sedatives. He forced her to drink with him. He threatened to tap her phone. He told her multiple times that if they broke up, he would kill her.

She suffered from hearing loss and vertigo and after the breakup, sought treatment. No specific cause of her conditions was determined by the doctor.

To explain how she stayed in such an abusive relationship for a year, she says, “Now I see how independent women get stuck in one. [The physical abuse] happens quickly. He’s drunk, and you’re naked and at your most vulnerable. It’s so disorienting. You lose a little of who you are.”

She calls Schneiderman a Jekyll and Hyde character, saying he champions women in public but abuses them in private.

She had no intention of coming forward until – through a network of mutual friends – she learned of another woman who had been abused by Schneiderman. That is the woman described as Anonymous Accuser #2 in the Mayer & Farrow New Yorker piece.