Advocates for victims of sexual assault said they saw positive changes in the early hours of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce’s annual train to Washington.
“I think there’s an initial improvement just by the fact that there’s so much of an increase in security and transparency,” said lobbyist Sabeen Masih. “There’s clear measures being taken, so I think it’s clear that changes are not only coming but on the horizon.”
Masih, along with New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault Executive Director Patricia Teffenhart and former Assemblywoman Lisa Randall, were among the thinner crowd that attended the Chamber’s annual train ride, which was named as a hot bed of sexual harassment and misogyny in a bombshell Star Ledger report released late last year.
The three sit on an working group convened by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg to combat Trenton’s culture.
Their mission on the train, to turn the train ride back to a networking event, was simpler, and they said early indications are they’re seeing some success.
“The tenor going into it does seem to be more professional,” Teffenhart said. “People are really here to do what the Chamber train is intended for us to do — conduct business.”
In an effort to stamp out predatory behavior, the Chamber increased its security — every other train car has someone watching for harassment — banned hard liquor, created a sexual assault hotline and drafted a code of conduct.
The move, or the controversy that led into the event, has cost the Chamber’s train some of its riders.
Last year, the train had 14 cars. This year, it has 11, and while attendance numbers are difficult to obtain, there has been a noticeable and sizeable drop since 2019.
“I think attendance rates aren’t indicative of what’s to come,” Masih said. “I think people are just being cautious, which is honestly a good response to recognizing are the changes being made, and if so, are people comfortable with participating.”