Creating a Climate Where Victims’ Stories Are Heard

Johanna Bencomo

The Chicago Tribune carried a story yesterday of a complaint by a former Democratic campaign worker accusing her direct supervisor of repeated sexual harassment. The story is accompanied by a litany of screenshots that begin with comments about the campaign worker in a bikini and continue with three months of text messages trying to get the woman to agree to an after-work drink. There are few questions.

In a story first carried by Mesilla Valley News yesterday that would reach the Miami Herald by dusk, New Mexico Democratic Party Vice Chair Neomi Martinez-Parra wrote the state party’s chairman to lodge a formal complaint of “inappropriate sexual misconduct” against Doña Ana County Commissioner John Vasquez. By day’s end, Vasquez would dismiss the allegations as “ridiculous,” and at least one interpretation of part of the letter could threaten the entire state party. When it comes to questions of fact, many remain to be resolved.

Martinez-Parra Letter Page 1

But none of those questions of fact is the important question.

The important question – and one all but one person failed to address – is whether a woman in New Mexico today feels more or less likely to report what she believes to be misconduct or harassment.

Three elected public officials were officially copied in Martinez-Parra’s letter. Only one – the lone female – addressed the issue publicly. State Representative Angelica Rubio issued a strong statement to the New Mexico Political Report.

“If leaders are not ready to make these decisions about these issues, they should not be in positions of leadership,” Rubio told the Political Report.

Nothing was said by the two men, Attorney General Hector Balderas and State Senator Howie Morales.

Martinez Parra Letter Page 2

Two days after Neomi Martinez-Parra began to tell her story, is the next woman who feels victimized more likely to tell her story? That is the question that matters most today.