Elizabeth Warren And Other Senators Open Up About Their Own Experiences With Sexual Harassment

All 21 women in the Senate were contacted, these four chose to share their stories.

Earlier this month, actress Alyssa Milano kicked off a social media campaign using "#MeToo" to illustrate to other women they're not alone in facing sexual assault and harassment. The effort has generated thousands of responses, retweets, and likes thus far, and now a handful of female senators have chosen to speak up about their own personal #MeToo moments.

Glamour reports NBC's Meet the Press reached out to all 21 women in the Senate to see if they had stories of sexual harassment to share in light of the #MeToo movement, and four Democratic women — Senators Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.), Claire McCaskill (D–Miss.), Heidi Heitkamp (D–N.D.), and Mazie Hirono (D–Hawaii) — chose to contribute their deeply personal accounts on the October 22 episode of the political show. 

Sen. McCaskill opened up about a senior member of the Missouri state legislature intimating she'd need to provide oral sex in order to get a piece of legislation out of committee, while Sens. Heitkamp and Hirono discussed the intimidation and "unwanted attention" they'd respectively faced from a myriad of male teachers, colleagues, and others over the years. 

Recommended

While each story was infuriating and cringe-worthy in its own right, something Sen. Warren said when recounting her own tale of sexual harassment resonated with many and has emerged as a troubling theme throughout the #MeToo saga — she wondered what she had done to invite the inexcusable behavior.

Warren's #MeToo story occurred when she was a "baby law professor" and involved a senior faculty member with a penchant for dirty jokes and a habit of making comments about Warren's appearance. When he invited the then-professor to his office one day she didn't think much of it, but as the meeting began Warren recalled "he slammed the door and lunged for me."

"It was like a bad cartoon. He's chasing me around the desk trying to get his hands on me," Sen. Warren added. "And I kept saying, 'You don't want to do this. You don't want to do this. I have little children at home. Please don't do this.'"

Though she eventually escaped, Warren couldn't help but wonder if somehow she'd been at fault. "I went back to my office, and I just sat and shook," she recalled. "And thought, What had I done to bring this on?" 

As many on Twitter noted, women blaming themselves after instances of sexual harassment or assault is all too common, but not at all deserved:

Years later, Sen. Warren knows she was not at fault. "What it means now, that so many people have spoken out, it's a way to say 'We're here for eachother," she explained. It's also a way to say, 'No, it's not about what you did. He's the one who stepped out of line and this is on him.'" 

According to The Boston Herald, Sen. Warren taught law at several universities in the late 1970s and early 1980s, though she did not say where the harassment took place.

GET SOME POSITIVITY IN YOUR INBOX

Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.