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Kerry Lester has a new book on sexual harassment in Illinois government and politics

Friday, Jan 26, 2018

* From last November

In the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s downfall due to sexual assault and harassment claims from numerous women - it’s glaringly apparent that the issue is not limited to a certain industry or segment of society. Statehouses across the nation have joined in the #MeToo movement. Some are saying state legislatures harbor environments where such activity is commonplace.

In Illinois, over 150 people signed an open letter calling for change and alleging rampant sexual harassment within the system of state politics. Kerry Lester was one of those people to sign. She’s spent years covering the statehouse as a reporter for the Association Press, she’s now with the Daily Herald. She says like many other women, she has been treated inappropriately by men in power, but hadn’t know how to respond in a meaningful way that wouldn’t threaten her credibility. Listen to an interview with her below about what’s been going on in Springfield as a result of that letter.

* Lester has since left the Daily Herald and has written a new book called “No, My Place: Reflections on sexual harassment in Illinois government and politics.” Click here to order it on Amazon

Illinois women understand well that political currency is a delicate mix of connections, favors and power. They’ve also learned that the game is fixed, one that puts them, more often than not, in no-win situations. Award-winning journalist Kerry Lester collects the stories of harassment, inappropriate and sexist behavior endured by the state’s most powerful women, including the Illinois Attorney General, the Cook County State’s Attorney, Chicago’s City Clerk, numerous members of the General Assembly, lobbyists and political consultants.

* Kerry was kind enough to send me an advance copy and said I could post an excerpt here. There are no “outings” of men by name, but some folks may be able to figure some stuff out.

I chose to excerpt Lester’s interview with Rep. Theresa Mah (D-Chicago), not because it was the most “salacious,” but because it’s such a common and widespread complaint

Several years ago, before I was a lawmaker, I was an advocate down in Springfield working on a bill. When the legislation finally passed both chambers, a state representative who had helped me suggested we go to The Globe, a popular bar near the Capitol, and celebrate.

It was then when I experienced how gross and entitled many men can be. While we were having drinks, this lawmaker became very handsy. He was clearly not being professional and took the instance as a sexual opportunity. He was on the make, and it became obvious to me that this was pretty habitual for him.

After he’d had a few drinks, he put his hand on my leg and invited me up to his room. I was able to extricate myself from the situation as quickly and politely as possible. I made it clear that I wasn’t interested and left it at that. I was glad that the bill we had worked on together had passed already, so I didn’t really have to have much to do with him after that. I was able to put that episode behind me.

I think a lot of men in Springfield behave like that because they believe it’s the norm, and they don’t believe there’s any chance they’ll be reprimanded or anything. And experiences like mine aren’t serious enough that most women would go and report them. I didn’t.

Again, click here to order. You can buy the hard copy now and it can be downloaded on January 31st.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

21 Comments
  1. - Shytown - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 11:04 am:

    Bravo Kerry Lester!


  2. - anon2 - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 11:06 am:

    The behavior Rep. Mah experienced from a legislator was worse than anything that Sen. Silverstein did, since he never put a hand on, nor propositioned, his purported victim. Yet Silverstein remains the poster boy for sexual harassment, even though the IG exonerated him as a harasser, and far worse perps remain anonymous.


  3. - Responsa - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 11:09 am:

    Thank you, Kerry. I’m looking forward to reading your book as soon as it is available. I am sure there may be others who are, uh, not looking forward to reading it.


  4. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 11:09 am:

    Congratulations, Kerry on your wedding to Mike Kasper.


  5. - Norseman - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 11:13 am:

    Good luck to Kerry on her book. This is a real problem that needs to have this bright light shone on it.


  6. - Arthur Andersen - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 11:23 am:

    Pre-ordered. Thank you, Kerry.


  7. - Sharon - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 11:26 am:

    Reading this book should be part of the sexual harrassment training for all at the statehouse.


  8. - JB13 - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 11:28 am:

    Oh? There’s a sexual harassment problem in Springfield? So you all keep saying, and everyone seems to know who the suspects/perps are, yet it’s being withheld from the public? I’m sure there’s a perfectly good reason, though. And it has nothing to do with power and politics.


  9. - walker - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 11:31 am:

    Excellent. Couldn’t be a better person lifting the cover on this mess. I could only add that I was shocked at some blatant inappropriate behavior from my first day in Springfield.


  10. - Langhorne - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 11:38 am:

    JB13, withholding names “has nothing to do w power and politics.” Then what is the reason? If victims choose to remain silent, who are you to ask them to name names? Its not a parlor game.


  11. - Montrose - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 11:57 am:

    “So you all keep saying, and everyone seems to know who the suspects/perps are, yet it’s being withheld from the public?”

    Stuff like this is tantamount to blaming the victim. There are a lot of good reason folks that have been subject to harassment don’t name names. Your desire to ignore it and act righteous doesn’t help the situation.


  12. - Scott Cross for President - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 11:57 am:

    Kerry, thank you. I would guess this was not an easy project for you.


  13. - Justan Observer - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 12:51 pm:

    JB13 — RE: “…yet it’s being withheld from the public? I’m sure there’s a perfectly good reason, though. And it has nothing to do with power and politics.” Wow. Your post reminds all of us that there are still many who remain clueless about the issue of sexual harassment, and how incredibly difficult it can be (and in some cases nearly impossible) for victims to name names (and in some cases, even for onlookers to name names). Why not focus, instead, on solutions, and how we might change this culture, and prevent it from occurring? Just a thought.


  14. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 1:03 pm:

    ===it’s being withheld from the public===

    You make it sound like an organized conspiracy or something. You make yourself look like a fool when you do that.


  15. - Noticeing - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 1:37 pm:

    So the Illustrator is married to Attorney General Lisa Madigan and th Author is married to Speaker Mike Madigan’s longtime attorney. The plot thickens.


  16. - Shytown - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 1:52 pm:

    - Noticeing…your comment sounds eerily like something Dan Proft or IPI would say…

    Oh my god it’s a vast conspiracy to publish stories about sexual harassment. Crawl back into your mancave.


  17. - SAP - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 3:46 pm:

    Can anyone explain the relevance of who the author is married to? When a man does something newsworthy I don’t see mention made of his wife.


  18. - Louanne - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 4:19 pm:

    SAP-
    Its relevant because her husband works for Madigan and the House Dem caucus. If sexual harassment was going on, the Democrats her husband works for (a) knew about it; and (b) did nothing to stop it.
    All Democrats should be bothered greatly by that fact.
    It is also troubling that she chose to write this book after she left Springfield and after she no longer had a column. She knew about sexual harassment when she was a reporter and chose not to tell her readers about it.


  19. - SaulGoodman - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 8:22 pm:

    **All Democrats should be bothered greatly by that fact.**

    Sigh… you think this is a partisan problem?


  20. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Monday, Jan 29, 18 @ 9:17 am:

    So Louanne, where is YOUR book?


  21. - Aanon - Thursday, Feb 1, 18 @ 6:21 pm:

    Does anyone believe “Mee, Too” just affects women?

    Is society ready for THAT conversation? Just ask the Catholic church, eh?


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