As fallout continues from the resignation of former state Sen. Jeff Clemens after disclosure of an affair with a lobbyist, two senators issued a joint statement Monday calling on victims of sexual harassment and misconduct to come forward.
“Victims are made to feel ashamed, afraid, and uncertain of how this may impact their careers. They are made to bear a piece of this burden and the weight of the misconduct somehow becomes the responsibility of the victim,” Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, and Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, said in the statement. “That ends here. That ends today. We are here to say that you are not to blame. If you have been hurt or exploited, let your voice be heard. Come forward.”
The statement came three days after Clemens resigned from his Palm Beach County seat after a media report about an affair with a lobbyist. The Clemens disclosure has led to widespread discussion and rumors about sexual harassment and misconduct in the Capitol.
Book, who was sexually abused by a nanny when she was a child, is a prominent leader on victims' rights issues. Benacquisto, who chairs the Senate Rules Committee, said in a 2010 campaign ad that she had been raped at age 19.
The statement from Benacquisto and Book referred to their experiences as victims.
“As long as we are here, you will be heard, and we will do all that we can to help,” the statement said. “We are your allies because sadly we can both say #MeToo. We understand what it means to be victimized, demoralized, and silenced in the face of sexual assault.”