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#MeToo Reaches Pierre, But Where Does SD Go From Here?

Dozens of women, including lawmakers, have spoken about sexual harassment in South Dakota's State Capitol. (James/Flickr)
Dozens of women, including lawmakers, have spoken about sexual harassment in South Dakota's State Capitol. (James/Flickr)
October 30, 2017

PIERRE, S.D. – As reports of sexual harassment come to light at South Dakota's State Capitol and other workplaces around the country, many people wonder what can be done to stop it.

In an Argus Leader newspaper article, Samantha Spawn, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota, spoke about a sexual assault against her while she was lobbying in Pierre. Her account follows dozens of women accusing film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment.

Spawn is not alone at the State Capitol. Other women have spoken out too, including state lawmakers.

Spawn says women stepping forward to detail painful experiences is just the first step. She says it's now time for men to take responsibility.

"Men need to speak up when they hear it happening, tell other men that that's not OK, be willing to listen and learn from women when they say that they have been harassed or assaulted, and take action if they see something inappropriate happening," she states.

Spawn notes that sexual harassment is an issue in almost every workplace. She says education is a huge component of changing the way people act.

Spawn hopes the overwhelming number of women who have experienced harassment will shift the way men think about it. And she says men should be concerned no matter who is reporting the harassment.

"I hate it when I hear men say, like, 'Oh, well I have a daughter, or I have a wife or mother or sister that I love, so therefore I think this is wrong and women should be treated equally,'” she relates. “Women are people too, regardless of our relationship to any men."

Spawn says a better mechanism for reporting harassment at the State Capitol needs to be put in place.

As it stands now, lawmakers must go to their chamber's leadership, made up solely of men who can be dismissive of women's claims.

She says the dynamics of power play a role as well, such as in cases when a bill is being pushed. Leadership might see action against a party member as damaging to their legislative efforts.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - SD