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IL State Rep: I Won't 'Subject Myself' To Sexual Harassment Training

By Stephen Gossett in News on Nov 1, 2017 4:52PM

The dome of the Illinois State Capitol Building in Springfield, Illinois. Photo by Aaron Cynic.

As Springfield continues to come to grips with its alleged culture of widespread sexual harassment, a northwest suburban state representative says he won't take part in sexual harassment training—a concept he undercut with ironic scare quotes—and chastised lawmakers who took aim at the culture without naming harassers.

Republican Rep. Steve Reick, of the 63rd District, said in a decidedly tone-deaf post on his website, "I'm not saying I’m blameless, but I’m damned sure not going to allow myself to be painted with their broad brush, nor will I subject myself to whatever 'training' is imposed."

Reick was responding specifically to the previous night's episode of WTTW's Chicago Tonight, which welcomed Senator Heather Steans and representatives Chris Welch, Robyn Gabel and Sara Feigenholtz—all of whom are among the hundreds who have signed the open letter that alleges widespread sexual misconduct in the state capital, "ranging from daily microaggressions to acts of pure viciousness."

Reick criticized Feigenholtz, who said on the show that she didn't know who was specifically at fault among lawmakers, saying Feigenholtz "doesn’t get around much, because one thing that’s certainly more widespread in Springfield than sexual harassment is gossip." And he added that Steans "dodged the question" when she declined to name the person who personally harassed her. Steans said the incident happened eight or nine years ago and stressed the need for a system in the future that has real accountability when an investigation determines misconduct.

“Training is definitely part of it, but it’s not sufficient,” Steans said. “You need to have a clear process of reporting and accountability if there is a finding of wrongdoing."

A bill introduced by House Speaker Michael Madigan would mandate annual sexual harassment training for legislators and set up a method for handling allegations. It would also require lobbyists to prove they have undergone similar measures.

Reick in his post makes repeated overtures to decrying sexual misconduct in Springfield ("I have no sympathy for [sexual harassment], and if guys want to walk around acting like cave men with a club, count me out.") but adds bizarre, counterproductive retorts like this one, in response to Steans: "In that regard, Senator Steans is right, training won't be enough. Nothing will be enough until human nature bends toward androgyny." Oof.

Reick said he also "wouldn’t know a 'microagression' from a microwave. It sounds to me like a subjectively insignificant action that would be better handled with a puppy or a juice box."

He kept on:

"But if my colleagues want me to sign on to this, they’re certainly not doing it the right way... By implying that I’m part of the problem simply by occupying a seat on the House floor or through the accident of birth of having been born male, they’re giving me every reason to say “no”. I assume the culture extends beyond Ira Silvertein. If they want my support, then name names."

(Ira Silverstein was accused by legislative activist Denise Rotheimer of sexually harassment while the two worked on drafting legislation. "What I dealt with Silverstein, I ended up six weeks in a crisis," she said at a hearing this week.)

Many survivors of sexual harassment of course hesitate with coming forward with names for fear of retribution. A study by Lilia Cortina, professor of psychology and women's studies at the University of Michigan, found that two-thirds of public employees said they were retaliated against after reporting complaints.

Reick's full missive is available to read here, in all its cringeworthiness.

[H/T Capitol Fax]