An open letter signed by over 200 women currently and formerly employed in national security called for stronger reporting of sexual harassment, and mandatory employee trainings. “This is not just a problem in Hollywood, Silicon Valley, newsrooms or Congress,” the letter, which was obtained by Time reads. “These abuses are born of imbalances of power and environments that permit such practices while silencing and shaming their survivors.”
The women who signed the letter, which was titled #metoosec, work across the federal government and at various institutions in the national security space. All say that they have witnessed or survived sexual harassment or assault in their field. The letter itself contains no specific allegations, but its co-authors, retired Ambassador Nina Hachigian and former State Department official Jenna Ben-Yehuda, told Time that it has served as a valuable opportunity for many women to share their experiences with others.
Many of the women who signed the letter told Ben-Yehuda and Hachigan that they attempted to report their incidents through the proper channels but were left feeling as if they were being a nuisance or like their complaints were going unheard. Each department under the national security umbrella has their own policies about sexual harassment in the workplace and their own procedures for reporting those incidents, as well as trainings meant to address the issue at hand. But the women who signed the letter called the processes and trainings “erratic” and “irregular.”
Included in the letter was a call for reforms and improvements to existing policy, including “multiple, clear, private channels” for reproting abuse and mandatory training for all employees. “Everybody can be a leader on this,” Ben-Yehuda said to Time. “No matter what your rank or what your position there are so many opportunities to set the tone to create a workplace that is safe and more inviting for women.”