Juneau, AK(KINY)-Senate President Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, has issued a letter saying the legislature needs to address the issue of sexual harassment. He says in the letter, dated Thursday, that Senate leadership is committed to implementing mandatory workplace conduct training for all legislators and employees.
The statements follow allegations of sexual harassment against Senator David Wilson, a Republican from Wasilla.
An article in the Juneau Empire described the incident where Wilson was listening, or pretending to listen, a the door of a closed-door meeting of the House Majority caucus in June of 2017. Wilson is accused of having brought out his cellphone and either recorded or pretended to record audio through the door. Wilson is accused of passing his phone between the staffer’s legs, holding the phone to the door. The staffer was wearing a skirt.
Saralynn Tabachnik, the executive director of the AWARE shelter in Juneau, supports Senator Kelly's call for training concerning the issue of sexual harassment. She says since mandatory training is now required in in Congress, the Alaska Legislature should do the same.
Tabachnik says that sexual harassment has been illegal for a long time but is still prevalent in the workplace. In watching the flurry of sexual harassment and assault accusations happening locally and nationwide, in multiple industries, Tabachnik says we are having long-overdue conversations. She is happy victims are largely being believed when they come forward but detects there is still gender bias being applied to the victims. Tabachnik says when men come forward with an allegation, they are believed. A man's credibility is not questioned like a woman's is in the same circumstances. Still, Tabachnik finds there has been progress in how victims are treated compared to Anita Hill, who accused Supreme Court Nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in 1991.
Kelly's letter was addressed to the Director of Legislative Human Resources and the Director of Legislative Legal Services.