This week, the Indianapolis Star and other local news outlets carried a story about Speaker of the House Brian Bosma’s effort to intimidate a woman who admitted to having had a consensual (albeit “pressured”) sexual contact with him when she was a Statehouse intern in 1992.
She was 20 years old at the time; he was 36.
According to the news reports, the woman didn’t come forward of her own volition; she responded to media inquiries. None of the reports I read identified who made those inquiries, or what triggered them after all these years, but after Bosma’s attorney questioned her family, her friends, a former boyfriend and ex-husband in an effort to gather unflattering information about her, she decided she was willing to answer questions about the decades-old allegation.
Bosma evidently paid his lawyer $40,000 to dig up dirt to discredit the woman. The money came from his campaign account, raising (for me) the question whether those who donated to that account were cool with this particular application of those funds…
Bosma is currently in charge of drafting the General Assembly’s new sexual harassment policy, a task made necessary by public reaction to groping allegations lodged against Indiana’s exceedingly unpleasant, grandstanding Attorney General, Curtis Hill.
That seems….awkward, to say the least.
The Indianapolis Business Journal quoted a former staffer to the effect that the Bosma liaison was the “worst-kept ‘secret’ at the Statehouse.”
Actually, if gossip is to be believed, the “worst kept secret” is how common it is for male lawmakers at Indiana’s Statehouse to try to “pressure” female interns and staffers, and that it has gone on for years. When the Curtis Hill story broke, a number of the politically-connected women I know wondered aloud whether there would be a genuine investigation of those charges, and if so, whether that investigation might finally lead to an airing of other complaints, and a change in several lawmakers’ testosterone-fueled behaviors.
Randy male legislators may be an old story, but Bosma’s reported effort to intimidate and discredit the woman admitting to the encounter– his willingness to pay $40,000 for “dirt” he could use to smear someone he had pressured into a sexual act–is pretty despicable.
Republicans in the Indiana House have closed ranks around Bosma, who is thus far denying everything. The Governor (also a Republican) has declined to authorize an investigation, and Bosma’s district is so red it would take a blue tsunami to vote him out. So maddening as it is, he will probably “suffer” some embarrassment, at most–and proceed to craft the Statehouse’s sexual harassment policy.
If the #metoo movement has done nothing else, it has opened a lot of eyes–including mine–to the prevalence of sexual harassment. Too many women–including me–have thought for years that these “incidents” that happened to us were relatively rare, and probably our own fault; we were “open” or “approachable” in ways that invited boorish (or worse) behaviors. We coulda/shoulda resisted “pressure” from men in positions of authority who held power over us.
It may be time for #metoo to become #I’mmadashellandI’mnottakingitanymore.