Congresswoman Litesa Wallace is coming forward to not only shed light on the sexual harassment of Black women in government, but also demand that proactive steps be taken to stop it from happening altogether.
Women and men across multiple industries have been bravely coming forward with their personal stories to break the silence code around unwanted sexual advances and sexual assault throughout 2017. In an open letter for Teen Vogue, Rep. Wallace details some of the things women who pursue careers in government are subjected to, emphasizing the fact that Black women in particular face unique challenges in dealing with sexual harassment.
“It’s a kiss on the cheek that narrowly misses my lips instead of a handshake,” Wallace writes. “It’s a lingering hand on my back, too low and for too long. It’s a comment about my appearance and an invasive question about my personal life. It’s everywhere and it’s all the time—especially for Black women.”
Delving deeper into the dilemma women are faced with after being subjected to sexual harassment at the hands of powerful men in government, Wallace elaborates on an unspoken ultimatum that forces them to choose between remaining silent and keeping their jobs, or speaking out and facing career-jeopardizing consequences.
“After decades of being assaulted, disrespected, and underrepresented, it’s painful and dangerous to come forward with our stories,” she continues. “Consequences for sexual harassment are few and far between in Springfield. But the political consequences for speaking out are almost guaranteed.”
The Illinois-based politican goes on to elaborate about the imbalanced expectations placed on Black women, both in and outside of the government sector.
“Black women must be mild-mannered enough to be considered palatable for dominant culture, and soft enough for men of any background to see our femininity,” Wallace says. “Yet we must also perform roles traditionally considered patriarchal, lest we be labeled gold diggers and welfare queens, while also making known that we are down for the cause and radical to our cores.”
Wallace closes out the letter with a call to action, proposing a series of legislative changes be put in place to eliminate the sexual harassment of women in government.
“Awareness will never be enough to prevent sexual harassment: instead of placing the burden of sexual harassment on victims, we must hold perpetrators accountable,” Wallace writes. “That’s why I am sounding the alarm in Illinois, catapulting a succession of legislative changes that will require sexual harassment prevention training for every legislator, lobbyist, and staffer, and include a mechanism to make it easier for victims to report sexual harassment.”
To read the full open letter by Litesa Wallace, click HERE.