It’s not “our truth.” It’s the truth.
Finally, the world now believes what I have known for years but had been too afraid to reveal: the Governor of New York sexually harassed and abused far too many women, for far too long.
And he continues to abuse us. As recently as Saturday, the Governor sent his attack dogs on national television to accuse me of “lying.” He is gaslighting and revictimizing us. He is showing everyone what happens to women when they speak up about harassment and abuse in the workplace.
I am relieved that the Attorney General conducted a thorough investigation and her report is finally out. I encourage everyone to take the time to read it. For me, digesting each line of the report is like swallowing a shard of glass.
I am personally devastated by the accounts of the Governor’s widespread harassment, the scope of the retaliation campaign he waged against me and the efforts by his minions to protect him at all costs. Learning, in excruciating detail, what other women were forced to tolerate is also painful.
The universal refrain of congratulations for telling “our truths” doesn’t bring me much comfort. In some ways, it simply confirms that women are believed only when an investigative report is made public and the evidence is overwhelming. It’s a shame that the institutions we uphold as our protectors and advocates — government, political leaders, the media, victims’ and women’s rights organizations — still don’t believe us when a powerful man is involved.
It’s not “our truth.” It’s the truth.
I tried to share my own story in February but editors and attorneys at mainstream media organizations lacked the courage to print it. So, I self-published my essay with the hope that being the first victim to go public would blaze a trail for other women to do the same. I am so glad it did.
The Governor and his attorneys seek to portray the eleven of us who risked everything to speak out as waging some kind of twisted conspiracy against him. In reality, each of us made it safer for the next woman to come forward. Our support of one another is the reason we’re here.
I often think about how close I came to being viewed as the villain of this story. The Attorney General’s report documented how the Governor, his inner circle, and people at the highest levels of corporate and non-profit power went to great lengths to discredit me. They are still trying. The Governor’s office continues to use official government channels (funded by taxpayers) to release statements and stage press conferences to spread lies about me and attempt to taint me and other survivors.
Here are the facts: the AG’s investigation concluded that my sworn testimony of persistent and abusive harassment at the hands of the Governor was “uncontested.”
Yet the Governor’s attorneys have falsely alleged that I was politically motivated to speak out. I am a New York Democrat. The notion that I was somehow aligned with Trump or his sympathizers makes absolutely no sense. Neither does their claim that going up against the most powerful Democrat in the state would somehow benefit me in a municipal election. In fact, I am confident that it hurt me.
My story was true when I ran for Congress in 2020 and said nothing about the constant harassment. It also was true when I ran for Manhattan Borough President earlier this year and finally decided to say something. And it’s true today now that I am a private citizen.
They continue to mischaracterize my resignation and falsely claim that I left because of complaints that were raised during a meeting with Alphonso David. But three Executive Chamber staff members confirmed to investigators that I tried to quit prior to that day and internal documents show that I was not asked to resign. I have already acknowledged that by that point, my mental health had deteriorated, my relationships with other senior staff members had become strained and I internalized much of the hostility I was subjected to. I will not dismiss any bad interactions that someone may have had with me during that time. But that does not mean I deserved to be sexually harassed. No one deserves to be harassed. That meeting was a wake-up call for me. I could no longer ignore the toxicity.
The Governor’s attorneys argue that I could not possibly have been harassed because I tried to be reinstated after I resigned. They are correct about one thing: I did ask for my job back. When you work in New York government, the Governor’s Executive Chamber is like the Olympics — there is no place higher to go. I worried that leaving would permanently stain my career. Where else would I go? In the days following my resignation, I contemplated accepting the culture of harassment and hostility to maintain my professional status — just as many women are forced to do every day.
The Attorney General’s investigation found that the Executive Chamber’s responses to sharing my story “constituted unlawful retaliation, in that it was conduct that would ‘dissuade a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination.’” In reading the report, I was sickened to see that people who recommended me for the job at Empire State Development and nominated me for women’s leadership awards were the same people who helped spread lies in an attempt to silence me.
I intend to sue the Governor and others who were involved in these efforts to smear me.
Too many people have been harmed or had their careers destroyed after reporting harassment. Retaliation is unacceptable in any workplace. It revictimizes those who have suffered abuse and it deters people from coming forward.
The investigation also shines a light on a system that protects the predator. The culture of secrecy and fear that forced victims of the Governor’s repeated harassment to remain silent allowed the abuse to go unchecked.
Even members of the Assembly admit they aren’t surprised by the Attorney General’s report. If that’s true, why are they moving so slowly to impeach him? They are said to be scared that the Governor will retaliate against them because he is “vindictive and crazy”. Trust me, I know the feeling.
I have received countless messages of support and thanks, for which I am grateful. I feel a deep solidarity with women who have confided in me that they, too, have endured similar harassment and retaliation.
Each of us has a responsibility to keep fighting for them.