A survey released by the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault Thursday found sexual harassment and other forms of sexual misconduct were pervasive in Garden State politics.
More than half of the respondents, 57%, said they experienced harassment while working in New Jersey politics, with women reporting harassment at higher rates than men, 64% to 28%.
“This report lays bare that we have a major issue with misogyny and harassment in New Jersey government and politics,” NJ CASA Executive Director Patricia Teffenhart said.
Most commonly, the survey’s respondents reported experiencing verbal remarks of a sexual nature, 23%, sexist or misogynistic comments, 22%, or unwanted touching, 15%.
Nine percent of respondents reported being subjected to sexual gestures and persistent and unwanted sexual advances, while 6% reported receiving unwanted messages, videos or images of a sexual nature.
Six percent reported being sexually coerced, while 3% reported being raped or sexually assaulted, and 2% reported being stalked or seeing obscene images in the workplace.
The Survey found elected officials, 22%, were most often the source of the misconduct, with 13% reporting misconduct at the hands of partisan political operatives and 12% reporting the same from an elected official’s staff.
“We had over 500 responses to the survey, and 57 percent of respondents indicated that they have experienced sexual harassment during the course of their time working in N.J. politics. That number is simply unacceptable,” Teffenhart said. “We’re calling on our leaders now: stop excusing bad behavior. Make changes today that can help prevent violence in the future. The data is clear – business as usual can no longer be accepted.”
A further 9% reported misconduct by lobbyists, and 6% said they were victimized by activists or advocates.
The survey indicated knowledge of the abuses was widespread, with 63% of respondents indicating they had witnessed some form of sexual harassment or misconduct. Women were more likely than men to report having seen misconduct of some kind, 68%-58%.
Campaign staffers and consultants were more likely than others to report having witnessed wrongdoing, with 77% saying they had, though 76% of lobbyists said the same.
Activists were the least likely to report having witnessed abuses, though a majority, 55%, said they had.
In the largest share of cases, respondents reported being harassed by a colleague, 28%, though a similar number, 23%, reported being harassed by a superior who was not their boss or manager.
Forty-one percent of elected officials who reported harassment said a colleague was responsible.
Most often, harassment took place at outside events that respondents were expected to attend as part of their job, 38%, though a similar number, 35%, said they were harassed at their place of work.
Just 1% of respondents reported their harassment to authorities or filed a claim with a government agency. Most, 52%, told a friend, family member or colleague about the harassment, while 21% told no one.
None who reported their harassment to a law enforcement agency said they were satisfied with their experience.
Most often, the victims did not report their abusers because of a fear of retaliation, 18%, or a fear of social backlash, 15%. Another 17% didn’t report the misconduct because they believed doing so would not help.
Most respondents, 69%, said they did not know how to report sexual misconduct.
NJ CASA recommended increased training on reporting misconduct and responding to such reports, as well as the creation of centralized non-partisan reporting systems and changes in cultural norms to encourage bystander intervention and reduce acceptance of wrongdoing.NJCASA Report on Sexual Harassment and Misogyny in Politics