Female Politicians In The UK And US Have Come Forward With Their Own Stories Of Sexual Harassment

Democratic Senators, Labour and Tory MPs speak out about sexual violence

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The numerous high-profile and shocking sexual assault claims against Harvey Weinstein have brought universal attention to the depressingly everyday truth of sexual violence against women.

The exposé acted as an impetus for the viral hashtag #MeToo, with women around the world sharing their stories of sexual harassment and assault on Social Media.

Tarana Burke, the founder of the 'Me Too' movement told ELLE UK that, whilst the hashtag was a beautiful moment, we need to keep the conversation going, and not just around celebrities.

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Tarana Burke

Thankfully, it looks like politicians are taking notice and some have even come forward with their own stories.

The US' show Meet The Press responded to the hashtag by asking all 21 of the female members of the Senate if they would come forward with their own story.

Four women came forward - the Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren, Heidi Heitkamp, Mazie Hirono and Claire McCaskill.

Elizabeth Warren

Warren spoke of her time as a 'baby law professor', when a senior faculty member who often told dirty jokes and commented on her appearance, asked her into his office. Here is what she says happened next:

'And he slammed the door and lunged for me. It was like a bad cartoon. He's chasing me around the desk, trying to get his hands on me.'

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As the professor continues to chase her, she tries to talk him down:

'And I kept saying, "You don't want to do this. You don't want to do this. I have little children at home. Please don't do this," and trying to talk calmly, and at the same time, what was flickering through my brain is, if he gets hold of me, I'm going to punch him right in the face.'

Elizabeth Warren

After she escaped the office she experienced the guilt that overcomes so many victims of abuse:

'I just sat and shook, and thought, 'What had I done to bring this on?' And I told my best friend about it. Never said a word to anyone else. But for a long time, I wore a lot of brown.'

McCaskill had a powerful message to say to women who did feel like tragically common feeling of self-blame, saying:

To young women on campuses who have been sexually assaulted and who are worried that, oh, they shouldn't have been with that guy, or they shouldn't have had anything to drink, or they shouldn't have been at that party, or they should've gone home with their friends, remember that does not excuse criminal conduct. You don't have to have perfect judgment to be a victim of a crime.

Similarly, some British female MPs have come forward with their own stories of sexual assault, including Labour MPs Jess Phillips and Mary Creagh.

Jess Phillips

Phillips told the Evening Standard that she has been attacked at least twice and is speaking out now for the sake of women who 'don't have [the] power to.'

She recalls an incident from her twenties, saying:

I was working in a bar and I remember going to a party and we went back to someone's house and my boss was there. I had fallen asleep on the sofa and when I woke up he was undoing my belt and trying to get into my trousers. I was absolutely paralysed with fear. He was loads older than me — maybe 25 years older. Someone else came in the room and dragged him off me. Then I went back to work the next day ... it's hard to comprehend that these things are happening until after the event.

She said that, knowing what she knows now, she still would not have reported it, 'For most women you can look back and say, "I wish I had told the police", but knowing what I know in working in sexual violence services I doubt they would have been able to do something.'

Creagh also recalled instances of sexual misconduct from a priest and a teacher in her childhood, concluding, 'Women of my generation and older have suffered an extraordinary amount of abuse from an astonishing array of institutions, churches and schools, and for boys.'

Hopefully these powerful women's message is heard and, perhaps more importantly, they keep doing what they can to make a difference.

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