Jose Javier Rodriguez calls for anti-harassment training in the Senate - Florida Politics

Jose Javier Rodriguez calls for anti-harassment training in the Senate

A push to make anti-sexual-harassment training mandatory in the Senate gathered momentum Monday after Democratic Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez sent a letter to Senate President Joe Negron urging him for a “more aggressive” sexual harassment policy.

The letter comes after six unnamed women accused Sen. Jack Latvala of sexually harassing and groping them, according to a POLITICO Florida report on Friday, and following the resignation of Sen. Jeff Clemens, a close ally of Latvala, after he admitted to an affair with a lobbyist.

“We must do more. Our legislature should be governed by standards at least as rigorous as other large public and private institutions or, I believe, by higher standards,” Rodriguez wrote in a letter to Negron.

Rodriguez wants to see the Senate implement an outreach program “to call and visit all Senate offices — and make the resources available to those who work at the Capitol but are not State employees.”

This change, he says, is meant to help victims come forward when they are harassed by members, staff or lobbyists. Negron said last week he is not aware of “formal or informal” sexual harassment complaints made in the Senate.

“There is no defense for there being no complaints,” Rodriguez told Florida Politics.

“In order to be a complaint we have to be a safe place for those complaints to be received,” he added. “It is not easy to come forward, specifically in a place that for many is hostile.

Rodriguez said he wants the policy to say in “unequivocal terms that retaliation for complaints will not be tolerated.”

Sens. Lizbeth Benacquisto and Lauren Book, who acknowledge that they too have been victims of sexual harassment, have also spoken out against it happening “in the halls of power.”

“We are here to say that you are not to blame,” the legislators said in a joint statement. “If you have been hurt of exploited, let your voice be heard.”

“Come forward. Make a report and get the help you deserve to heal and to be protected. It is crucial that you find your strength and use your voice,” the statement said. “As long as we are here, you will be heard, and we will do all that we can to help.”

In his letter Monday, Rodriguez praised Negron for revisiting the sexual harassment policy which was changed on Oct. 27. The change would have required sexual harassment reporting to go directly to leadership.

“It is positive that Negron walked that back, it is absolutely the wrong thing to require people to report to leadership rather than give people a number of avenues to report allegations,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez also wants the Senate to provide mental health counselors for those affected by sexual harassment. He added there is no reason why the changes shouldn’t be implemented immediately.

“Nothing stops us from doing it before Session,” Rodriguez said.

Ana covers politics and policy for Florida Politics. Before joining Florida Politics, she was the legislative relief reporter for The Associated Press and covered policy issues impacting immigration, the environment, criminal justice and social welfare in Florida. She holds a B.A. in journalism from San Diego State University. After graduating in 2014, she worked as a criminal justice reporter for the Monterey Herald and the Monterey County Weekly. She has also freelanced for The Washington Post at the U.S.-Mexico border covering crime in the border city of Tijuana, where she grew up. Ana is fluent in Spanish and has intermediate proficiency in Portuguese.

1 Comment

  1. We have to train grown men who are capable of running our State that they should respect the privacy of others? Did these men have mothers or other women in their lives as they grew up? We must take time and money to train these men in common decency and we actually sent them to Tallahassee to run this great State of Florida?

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