Thomas Novelly. The Tennessean. July 14, 2016.
A group of 11 women took to the steps of Legislative Plaza on Thursday to read excerpts of Jeremy Durham’s sexual harassment during his time in office as outlined in a 50-page report from the Attorney General.
“The 22 women in the report are represented by women you see here who could not speak out because they were fearful,” said Bonnie Dow, the Treasurer of Women for Tennessee’s Future. “Fearful that they would lose their reputations, their careers, their livelihoods and their dreams.”
The demonstration, organized by Tennessee Democratic Party Chairwoman Mary Mancini, featured 11 women who each read two segments from the report to show what it is like to be a woman facing workplace harassment.
Elizabeth Penn, 19, was one of the women who read from the report and said when she spoke into the microphone retelling one of Durham’s passes on a young woman, that she found herself in that girl’s shoes.
“It’s shocking that stuff like this actually happens in politics,” Penn said. “I’m considering a job in politics myself, and it makes me reconsider it. The fact that these women are seemingly helpless is disgusting.”
The majority of the 11 woman who participated in the demonstration were college-aged, similar to several of the women in the report, which was released Wednesday. Through his attorney, Durham has called the attorney general’s investigation deceptive and secretive.
Sydney Rogers was one of the few older women present. Rogers is currently running against House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, and said she disapproved of Harwell’s failure to suspend Durham and address the legislature’s harassment culture.
“I feel like Harwell’s response was too little, too late,” Rogers said. “The interns here shouldn’t have to be in a workplace that is uncomfortable and unsafe.”
When asked if her appearance at the demonstration was a political one, she said she came to stand as a woman among her fellow women. She slowly removed a Rogers for District 56 sticker she had worn as she was campaigning earlier.
Mancini closed out the news conference criticizing Harwell and challenging the legislature to address the harassment culture that flourished under her watch.
“This report shouldn’t be the end. It should be the beginning,” Mancini said. “If those issues don’t rise to the occasion that something shouldn’t be done, then I don’t know what does.”