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Former first lady of WA on being sexually harassed, again and again

Mona Lee Locke in the KUOW studios
KUOW Photo/Jason Pagano
Mona Lee Locke in the KUOW studios

Mona Lee Locke wrote this essay on Facebook:  

I am appalled that this election has become the biggest reality show of our country's recent history. In fact, I am so sick to my stomach that I have to speak out.
I have been sexually harassed. Not once, not twice, but multiple times. And before you jump to conclusions, that is not counting cat calls and off-hand comments from strangers. It was in the workplace. It was in the political arena. And it doesn't count the time I learned about a bet a group of male co-workers at one job made about who could sleep with me first.

It is a number of people through the years — who have touched, groped and verbally made me uncomfortable. It was the doctor giving me a physical as a prerequisite to a job when I was in my early 20s, who asked me to do sit ups while naked and offered a breast exam even though it was not a part of the physical.

Each incident or series of incidents surprised me, so much so that I did nothing. I said nothing. Like other victims, I thought: "Just get through it. It will pass," or “Was that for real? Did he mean it that way?"

For a society that has come so far in so many respects, it is sickening to see the tolerance for a man who absolutely has no respect for women, treats them like objects and has no reservation about re-victimizing his victims by bashing them publicly.

For every Trump, how many more harassers are out there? And how many people, like in this election, can find other reasons to support him, all the while ignoring the blatant allegations against him.

Is this okay as a society? What if it happened to your daughter, your sister, your wife? Is it okay for them not to feel safe, secure and respected?

And what about our sons? Is it okay to have them hear about this behavior and think it is acceptable? What are we teaching them? Ironically, it is my son who once told me, "Mom, you can do anything. And I know you will use this incident to stand up and be a voice for others." 

That's what compelled me to write this and tell my story.

Having sought legal advice, I had been told, "Don't do or say anything because it will hurt you more. This person is too rich, too powerful, too influential."

And to remind you, as a former journalist, the former First Lady of Washington state, former wife of the U.S. Secretary of Commerce who then became U.S. Ambassador to China, I was a public figure my entire career. Yet, I have been silenced through the years by the fears of what could happen to me, how I would be perceived by the public, my peers, future employers, my family and friends. Just imagine how many countless other women have suffered in silence like me.

I am speaking out now because I am disgusted by the fact we continue to put up with such behavior and attitude towards women.

I am speaking out now because I am embarrassed that someone like Trump, can be so unapologetic, and all the while continue to be a presidential candidate who aspires to lead our country.

And I am speaking out now because I am saddened by the tolerance voters have for this man and his values.

He talks about how bad politicians are, but here is a man who is openly showing by example how much worse "his" kind of politician can be.

It is plain gut-wrenching to watch this drama unfold. I had to say something. I couldn't sit on the sidelines anymore. I can't believe I am witnessing an apparent societal attitude that this type of behavior is tolerated or even condoned. We have come too far. It should never be tolerated. 


The women who have stepped forward now are courageous. I can understand why after hearing Trump deny how he treated women, they, too, could no longer sit on the sidelines. My guess is that they spoke out because they believe, like I do, in a better America. One that values all its people. One that is intolerant of racial, social or gender injustice. One that embraces love, unity and the strength of diversity. One that does not promote or tolerate fear, harassment, lies, anger and hate.

I refuse to be victimized anymore. This cycle simply must stop. And it won't until we stand up, men and women, and talk about it. Sure, if you have never suffered at the hand of sexual harassment, it is easy enough to dismiss. It is easy to belittle, give excuses for, ignore, gloss over or move on. We can play the blame game.

"They just want fame."

"They probably asked for it."

"They should have said no."

But shouldn't we really blame society?

For all those women who have walked in my shoes, I can tell you, it has a life-changing impact on the way you view society, you think twice about how you dress, how you act and how you look, your relationships in and out of the workplace. Imagine living your life in a self-imposed prison, lest you draw another unwanted comment, grab or grope.

Trump or not, long after this election cycle ends, we will have at least one actionable takeaway. We must end this tolerance of sexual harassment together and stand up for our values and beliefs. It takes dialog. It takes changing attitudes. It takes action. It's our responsibility to make sure every person feels safe, valued and respected in this great nation we call our home.

Mona Lee Locke has launched We Stand Together, a Facebook forum for sharing stories about changing attitudes around sexual harassment.