NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – They are women on a mission, driven by personal motivation to change the culture of silence surrounding sexual harassment in Albany.
“I wanted to be heard. I wanted to be believed. I wanted to be validated. I wanted a pathway to justice so I could move on with my career. And to be treated with dignity and respect,” Leah Hebert of the sexual harassment working group said.
Hebert and Rita Pasarell both say they were sexually harassed while working for Brooklyn assemblyman Vito Lopez.
“When I had reported harassment, I had expected that something was going to be done about it. And I was really surprised when that process didn’t happen,” Rita Pasarell added.
This female force is now working to change the process.
Their sexual harassment working group was created for women who reported or experienced harassment in the New York State Legislature.
On Wednesday they’ll be at the state’s capital, sharing their stories with government leaders and pushing for legislation that would protect survivors’ rights.
“I want them to listen to the testimonies and hear what they can do to craft those protections,” Pasarell said.
“And demand that the legislators learn from the failures of the past,” the group’s Eliyanna Kaiser said.
It’s the state legislature’s first hearing on sexual harassment in 27 years. Actress, activist, and former candidate for governor, Cynthia Nixon is joining the cause.
“We’re here to say we’re going to do this right. We need to do this right. This has been too long in coming. This is our moment and we’re going to treasure it and take care of it,” Nixon said.
“We’re really hoping that these hearings are not just a show piece that they’re a first step to going through an actual deliberate process and coming out the other end with meaningful reforms,” Kaiser added.
The women say they know change can’t happen overnight and hope Wednesday’s public hearing on sexual harassment is the first of many.