The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) released a 52-page report Thursday detailing the failure of leaders in the Oregon State Legislature to properly address reports of sexual harassment and misconduct, with a specific focus on sexual misconduct perpetrated by former Sen. Jeff Kruse.
The report contains many bombshells (like the revelation that Rep. David Gomberg likes to ask his staff for “birthday spankings"). But among the eye-grabbing, scintillating details laid out in the report, there’s one point that—tragically—does not shock anyone: A woman was told she wasn’t “likable” enough to have her sexual harassment claims taken seriously.
Sen. Sara Gelser was one of two state senators to accuse Kruse of sexual misconduct (the other was Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward). According to the report, Speaker of the House Tina Kotek at one point told Gelser that she was reluctant to issue a statement on the allegations against Kruse—because Gelser wasn’t an appealing enough victim for her colleagues across the aisle.
“She’s like, ‘People don’t like you and I was talking to a Republican today and they’re like, you know, this would be a problem but she’s just not very likable,’” Gelser told BOLI. “And she says, 'You know, the way this has unfolded you’ve made it all about yourself.'”
Sen. Kotek refutes Gelser's narrative. In a statement emailed to the Mercury, Kotek says, "It’s just not okay that anyone who has worked in the Capitol has experienced harassment or inappropriate behavior."
"But it is utterly false to conclude that I have knowingly allowed people to be harassed in the Capitol, and I dispute how the report has characterized my conversations about incidents of harassment," Kotek said. "On the contrary, I have been very clear that we need to be a model workplace and continue to do everything in my power to improve the Legislature’s culture.”
This revelation comes the same week that US Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced her potential candidacy for president, which immediately prompted media speculation of whether she was "likable" enough—a concern that any woman who has ever worried about being too demanding, too outspoken, or simply too visible in her workplace.
Here’s the entire report. Read it, absorb it, bring it up to every Oregonian you know. Just keep in mind that if you’re a woman, speaking out about it will probably put a few dings in your likability score.