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Scottsdale lawmaker recounts years of sexual harassment in state House

Ben Giles//October 20, 2017

Scottsdale lawmaker recounts years of sexual harassment in state House

Ben Giles//October 20, 2017

Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale)
Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale)

Arizona Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, said she’s been sexually harassed at the state Capitol since her first year in office.

Ugenti-Rita posted an account to Facebook and Twitter Thursday of the “unwanted sexual advances and lewd and suggestive comments regarding my body and appearance from male colleagues” she’s dealt with since her election to the House of Representatives in 2010.

“As the behavior became more aggressive and brazen, I could no longer ignore what was happening because being at the Capitol and interacting with some of my peers became uncomfortable and intimidating as I established myself in this new role,” Ugenti-Rita wrote. “Starting out in any industry puts one in a vulnerable position and these behaviors exploited and took advantage of my lack of familiarity with the dynamic I was in.”

Ugenti-Rita said she reported the harassment to House Leadership, but that there was only so much they could do since each member of the Legislature is elected. Her efforts to halt the harassment were mostly successful in the House, but Ugenti-Rita wrote that she felt “deliberate actions” were taken against her by members of the state Senate.

“As a result, I began to feel isolated and that I was being held to a different standard than the other members. Meaning I had to go above and beyond then (sic) norm to accomplish what others were able to do,” she wrote.

Ugenti-Rita did not identify any individual senators or representatives.

She was prompted to share her experience by the numerous reports of sexual harassment by film producer Harvey Weinstein, who’s been accused of unwanted advances and assault by multiple women over decades. Those reports have prompted others to publicly share their experiences with sexual harassment and assault, and “Arizona is not immune,” Ugenti-Rita wrote.

She encouraged House and Senate leadership to create a formal process for reporting harassment to encourage victims to feel safe and come forward with their experiences.

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