Maryland gubernatorial candidate Krish Vignarajah released a plan to combat "sexual harassment and sexual violence in government, businesses and schools" on Monday, which includes a proposal for the creation of an Office of Sexual Harassment and Violence.
Reporting directly to the governor's office, the proposed office would be responsible for coordinating local, state and federal agencies' efforts in combating sexual harassment and sexual violence, according to a Nov. 13 news release. It would also provide comprehensive services to address survivors' needs by creating technology to flag "repeat predators," encouraging law enforcement to address the backlog of untested rape kits and act quickly on reports of harassment and assault.
The office would also offer independent audits and encourage companies to monitor sexual harassment of employees at all levels. Vignarajah's administration would also have "the entire executive branch of state government undergo a sexual harassment audit by a third-party evaluator," and the results would be made public "in a manner that respects privacy and anonymity," according to the news release.
Vignarajah's plan includes requiring anyone seeking public office or applying for state funding to disclose and confirm they have neither committed nor endorsed sexual harassment or assault.
"As a survivor, I have been hesitant to say #MeToo, out of fear of being defined by it and out of respect for survivors who have suffered far worse—but too many have endured too much for too long for me to remain silent," Vignarajah said in the news release. "Maryland has been a moral leader on so many of our country's hardest issues, and my plan is meant to follow in that tradition … [and] to fix a society that tacitly condones sexual harassment and silences victims."
After multiple women accused film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct, people have taken to social media and used the hashtag #MeToo to share their stories of sexual harassment and assault.
Besides government offices, Vignarajah's administration would also focus on prisons, "where some male guards have used their positions to sexually abuse female prisoners," she wrote. As well as restaurants and other fields where workers depend on tips.
As for schools, the proposal includes requiring all students from middle school through college to get educated on "robust concepts of consent." "On college campuses, we must take steps to prevent sexual violence by proactively addressing the cultural norms of misogyny and objectification, while establishing, communicating, and enforcing clear guidelines on consent and welcomed sexual attention," Vignarajah wrote in a policy statement.
Her plan comes after Alabama Senate Candidate Judge Roy Moore drew widespread criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike after four women accused him of sexual misconduct. The White House and prominent Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have denounced Moore. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he is "unfit for office," in a Nov. 11 statement, calling on him to withdraw from the Dec. 12 Senate special election.
"Sexual harassment and sexual violence have no place in society, especially in government," Vignarajah said in the news release.