DES MOINES, Iowa — Fear of retaliation is something that kept Pam Dugdale, one of the women backing Kirsten Anderson‘s sexual harassment accusations against Statehouse Republicans, from speaking up.
Beth Barnhill, of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, has been working with sexual assault victims for more than 30 years, and says Dugdale’s fear is common.
“I think very often that is the underlying fear, and if you’re worried about losing your job altogether, that’s your livelihood and how you pay your mortgage and feed your kids,” said Barnhill.
Some people do speak out, though. According to the U.S. Department of Employment, sexual discrimination allegations make up nearly a quarter of all discrimination complaints in the workplace in Iowa.
“I can’t believe it, really, I thought we were past that now. I thought we were all grownups now, and men and women were treated equally,” said Indianola resident Judy Dugan.
Beth Barnhill said sexual harassment can affect people physically, too.
“They have trouble sleeping, eating, very upset all the time, I’ve known people who have had to go on anti-depressant or anti-anxiety agents,” Barnhill said.
Jeff Anderson, husband of Kirsten Anderson who is suing the State of Iowa and the Republican Caucus for sexual harassment, said his wife showed similar signs.
“She just started to change. Her posture changed, the look on her face would change, her tone would change,” Anderson said.
Whether it’s at the Statehouse or a business, some say this case helps open the doors for other sexual harassment victims to speak out. Additionally, in reaction to this court case, the Statehouse is implementing new sexual harassment training for senators and pages. The Coalition Against Sexual Assault says this will create a zero-tolerance culture in the work place.