EDITORIAL: State Capitol Must Be A Place Safe For Women

EDITORIAL
American News, Aberdeen, S.D.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) From unwanted hugs to kisses on the cheek to being asked out or hit on and more, several women who work in South Dakota have come forward to describe their experiences dealing with sexual harassment at the state capitol in Pierre.

Aberdeen, S.D.

Unsafe.
Unacceptable.
Hyper-masculine.
Sexualized.
Dirty.
“What happens in Pierre, stays in Pierre.”

Those are words women recently used in a Sioux Falls Argus Leader report to describe the culture inside the state Capitol as they shared instance after instance of sexism within its marbled hallways.

The women came forward after actresses in Hollywood publicly accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault, which shed a light on issues like sexual harassment and rape though the social media hashtag #MeToo.

Former state Sen. Angie Buhl O’Donnell and lobbyist Samantha Spawn were the first to share their stories about the Capitol.

In an Oct. 13 Facebook post, Buhl O’Donnell detailed an interaction with former House Majority Leader Brian Gosch.

She said he spoke about her breasts being targeted several times during a game of dodgeball. And, she wrote, later that night Gosch asked for a hug despite the two having hardly interacted before.

Buhl O’Donnell said she was caught off guard and felt put upon, so she uncomfortably obliged.

Spawn also shared her experience, posting on Facebook that a state employee raped her in March after a lobbyist event.

Spawn said there’s a culture of keeping quiet in Pierre, and she worried about losing respect or that her allegations would be discredited.

After all, from a very young age, girls are often told “boys will be boys.” And that’s exactly how several other longtime legislators and lobbyists described the atmosphere to the Argus Leader — as a “good old boys’ club.”

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