Members of Congress Bring #MeToo Survivors, Advocates as Guests to State of the Union
(Washington, DC) – In solidarity with the #MeToo movement, several Members of Congress, including Reps. Annie Kuster (NH-02), Lois Frankel (FL-21), Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Susan Davis (CA-53), Katherine Clark (MA-05), and Mike Quigley (IL-05), will bring sexual harassment survivors and advocates as guests to President Trump’s State of the Union address tonight at 9:00 PM ET.
Congresswoman Kuster, the founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence, has long been a champion for survivors of sexual and domestic violence, sharing her own personal experiences involving sexual assault on the House floor and joining with 17 other Members of Congress to read Emily Doe’s open letter describing her attack and ensuing trial – which marked the first time a victim’s statement has been read in full in the House chambers. Congresswoman Kuster will bring Chessy Prout, a survivor of sexual assault, as her guest.
“The #MeToo moment has truly turned into a national movement,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “I’ve been inspired by the courage of Chessy Prout and other survivors of sexual violence, who are bravely using their experiences to let others know they are not alone. By wearing black tonight we are sending a message to the nation that we will not rest until we’ve changed the all too persistent culture of sexual harassment and violence.”
Rep. Frankel, Chair of the Democratic Women’s Working Group, will bring Laura Germino, Co-Founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and their Fair Food Program, which successfully protects the right of tomato workers to work free from sexual harassment and assault by partnering with large retailers to ensure they only purchase tomatoes from growers that maintain a safe and dignified workplace.
“Laura’s tireless efforts to provide workers with a safe, dignified workplace is an example that all industries – from farms, to hotels, to Hollywood – can follow,” said Rep. Frankel. “Our nation is in the middle of a cultural revolution, where workers are demanding respectful workplaces that are free of sexual harassment. I’m bringing Laura and her success story to Washington to echo that call.”
Rep. Lawrence, Vice Chair of the Democratic Women’s Working Group, will be joined by Danielle McGuire, a historian and author who wrote a book shining a light on Recy Taylor.
“Wearing black during the State of the Union address is a strong sign of solidarity with victims of sexual misconduct, sexual harassment and sexual abuse. Also, women members of the Congressional Black Caucus will be wearing red pins as a tribute to Recy Taylor, an African American woman who was kidnapped and raped by six white men in Alabama in 1944, threatened with death if she reported the incident but spoke out anyway, only to have the men go free.
This is why I am so glad to host as my guest for the State of the Union address award-winning author and historian Danielle McGuire, who had the conviction and courage to investigate and shine light on the story of Recy Taylor through her book “At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance — A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power".
Sexual abuse and failure of the judicial system in administering justice has been a reality for too many for too long and we certainly cannot and will not stand for it. But more than show unity with our colors, we must show strong unity with our actions. Awareness and action for these issues are long past due. Time’s up for the abuse, neglect and injustice; and the time for action and change—real change, is right now,” said Rep. Lawrence.
Congresswoman Speier, Policy and Communications Chair of the Democratic Women’s Working Group, will bring Travis Moore, one of the leading advocates for survivors of sexual harassment and violence in Congress. In addition to being a leading voice in the #MeToo Congress movement, Travis is the Founder and Director of TechCongress. TechCongress places technologists to work directly for Members of Congress and Congressional Committees on key policymaking challenges through its one-year Congressional Innovation Fellowship. Fellows are designing policy on critical issues including Russian hacking, encryption, facial recognition privacy, and autonomous vehicle regulation. Travis worked on Capitol Hill for six years and was the Legislative Director for Rep. Henry A. Waxman, helping guide Rep. Waxman’s work on technology, health care, and the environment. He founded Congress’ first digital communications training program and the institution's first Congressional staff conference.
“I’m so proud to bring Travis Moore, who – along with Kristin Nicholson – organized over 1,500 former congressional staff in sending a letter to House and Senate Leadership demanding reform of the broken Congressional complaint process for survivors of sexual harassment and violence in Congress. Travis has been a critically important part of the effort to stop this epidemic that has spread across all party lines and into all professions and jobs. This epidemic is also at the root of so many other forms of discrimination and disrespect – such as lack of equal pay, childcare, and flexible work schedules. Travis and I will attend in honor of all the survivors, to show that we believe them and that we stand with them. And those of us in Congress will continue to honor these survivors by cleaning our own House, so that Congress can lead the way on this issue and ensure that this reckoning doesn’t stop at Capitol Hill. We all deserve and demand that bit of basic respect,” said Congresswoman Speier.
Rep. Davis’s guest is Jenna Ben-Yehuda, a former State Department official who has helped launch the #metoonatsec movement. In November, over 200 women who work on national security signed an open letter – co-authored by Ms. Ben-Yehuda - about surviving or knowing someone who experienced sexual harassment and assault. They call on national security agencies to make meaningful changes so that the women who keep our nation safe can be safe at work.
“I want to thank Jenna for her efforts to highlight the stories of women who work in national security,” said Rep. Davis “I’m honored to have her as my guest for the State of the Union. Because of women like Jenna and all other women who refuse to be silent we are seeing positive change. This is just the beginning.”
Rep. Quigley will be bringing Erin Walton, a Chicago resident who serves as Executive Director of Rape Victim Advocates (RVA). RVA is an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to the healing and empowerment of sexual assault survivors through non-judgmental crisis intervention counseling, individual and group trauma therapy, and medical and legal advocacy in the greater Chicago metropolitan area. RVA provides public education and institutional advocacy in order to improve the treatment of sexual assault survivors and to effect positive change in policies and public attitudes toward sexual assault.
“This is so much more than a movement—we’re in the midst of a transformative and overdue cultural reckoning, and time is up,” said Rep. Quigley. “Today is about all of the brave women who have come forward and shared their stories, as well as the advocates, like my guest Erin Walton, who work tirelessly to raise awareness and support survivors. Erin’s service to our home city of Chicago has undoubtedly empowered individuals and strengthened communities in more ways than we can count. It is up to all of us—women and men in every industry, zip code, and walk of life—to follow Erin’s example and work together to secure justice and safety for all.”
Congresswoman Clark will bring Anny Gonzalez, an airplane cleaner who endured persistent sexual harassment at her job. Clark hopes Gonzalez’s story will spotlight sexual harassment as an economic issue, the #MeToo movement’s role in the service and hospitality industries, and the challenges workers face in coming forward. Gonzalez will be seated in the U.S. House chamber gallery as President Trump delivers his State of the Union address.
“When the president looks up at our guests, I want him to see the face of a mom who was forced to decide between reporting abuse and making sure her daughter was fed,” said Rep. Clark. “Millions of women in the service industry contend with assault, harassment, and abuse from more powerful people because they feel like they have no other choice. The #MeToo movement has to be about creating a safe environment for victims to come forward, establishing accountability, and demanding action from our leaders, including our president.”
Congresswoman Watson Coleman will bring Rose Gunter, the niece of Recy Taylor and her caregiver until her death last year. Taylor was abducted and raped while walking home from work in Alabama in 1944. Taylor reported her attack, but her assailants were never brought to justice. In 2011, the Alabama Legislature apologized to Taylor, calling the failure to prosecute her attackers “morally abhorrent and repugnant.” Taylor’s story rose to national news following Oprah Winfrey’s Golden Globes speech while accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award. This effort is in conjunction with members wearing black to the State of the Union address in solidarity with those seeking economic security and a cultural shift that enables men and women to work side by side in safety and dignity, free of sexual harassment, and paid fairly for the value of their work.
“I am honored that Rose will be joining me for the State of the Union as many members of the Democratic Caucus will be paying tribute to her aunt,” Rep. Watson Coleman said. “Ms. Taylor’s story represents that of many marginalized women who have spoken up, spoken out and have long been ignored. The transformative movement that’s happening in this country around sexual misconduct must include amplifying the voices of victims that we, in some cases, chose not to hear. Beyond her terrifying experience, Ms. Taylor, herself, is a representation of the many communities this Administration has chosen to leave behind.”
Kuster (Nick Brown)
Frankel (Gillian Spolarich)
Lawrence (Nicole Julius)
Speier (Tracy Manzer)
Watson Coleman (Kirsten Allen)
Davis (Aaron Hunter)
Clark (Justin Unga)
Quigley (Tara Vales)