If there’s been one positive thing to come from the Harvey Weinstein scandal, it’s that more people are able to put a voice to the abuse they have suffered in the past. In light of more and more people coming forward to share their stories, NBC’s weekend political show, Meet the Press, asked all 21 women in the Senate if they would like to share their #MeToo stories. Four Democratic senators responded that they would, including powerhouse Senator Elizabeth Warren.
“The Havey Weinstein story has brought to light the ugliness, the humiliation, and perhaps most of all the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault,” Meet the Press host Chuck Todd said when introducing Warren and her colleagues, Senators Claire McCaskill, Heidi Heitkamp, and Mazie Hirono — all women with their own shocking tales of assault during the start of their careers.
Warren begins by telling her story, which happened during the early days of her job as a law professor, possibly at the University of Texas, where her career began. In her story, she talks about an older, male professor, who had invited Warren into his office for a chat. Obviously, thinking nothing of it, the “baby” law professor (as Warren dubbed herself) went into her colleague’s office. As soon as the door started to close, however, things took a shocking turn.
“He slammed the door and lunged for me,” Warren recalled. “It was like a bad cartoon. He’s chasing me around the desk trying to get his hands on me. 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.'”
After telling herself she would “punch him in the face” if the man did manage to grab her, Warren finally escaped and went back to her office, wondering if there was something she’d done wrong to bring this upon herself. This form of internalized victim-blaming is quite common and can stem from fear, guilt, and shame.
Warren wasn’t the only senator to suffer at the hands of a senior man in her life. Senator McCaskill (MO) recounts a time when she had just started in her home state’s legislature, trying to get a bill she’d written out of committee and into the house. When she asked a seasoned vet (the speaker of the state senate) how she could make it happen, he responded, “I hope you brought your knee pads,” (implying that McCaskill needed to perform a sex act on him in order to have her bill brought forward).
When Senator Heitkamp wanted to change dynamics as North Dakota’s Attorney General, she wanted to work on changing how domestic violence was prosecuted. When speaking during an event, a law enforcement official wagged a finger in Heitkamp’s face, telling her, “Men will always beat their wives and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.”
Senator Hirono (HI) admits that she’s been propositioned by teachers, colleagues, and many other men, saying, “observations about our appearance; these kinds of unwanted attention occurs in situations where there is uneven power, and it’s usually the woman who has less power.”
The senators, though each suffering through harrowing events, all firmly believe that going forward, there is hope. Warren sees the way that women are here for each other, and that in telling our stories, it reiterates the point that it’s not anything a woman could have done, but that the onus is on the men who behave in such a deplorable way.
“The first thing I’ll say,” says Senator Heitkamp, “is that you’re not alone. If you feel diminished, that probably was the intent. Don’t think you’re overreacting. We have to stick together, but it can’t just be a movement of women. It needs to be a cultural movement.”
How are you supporting friends sharing their #MeToo stories? Tell us @BritandCo!
(Photos via Justin Sullivan + Scott Eisen/Getty)