OLYMPIA — House Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen, of Snohomish, said Thursday he was sexually harassed by a woman early in his legislative career but it ended quickly when he told her to stop.
“When it took place I took care of it and nipped it in the bud immediately and there was never another incident,” he said.
Kristiansen, a Snohomish Republican, made the startling revelation as he and other legislative leaders spoke to reporters about lawmakers’ efforts to cleanse the Capitol environs of a culture in which women say they are routinely subjected to inappropriate comments and conduct.
In recent months, there have been allegations of sexual misconduct made against two former lawmakers. In November, nearly 200 women, including lawmakers, publicly called for changes in how the legislating institution deals with assertions of sexual harassment.
More recently, Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg lost his caucus leadership position amid renewed scrutiny of allegations he sexually harassed students at Central Washington University where he is a professor.
On Thursday, Kristiansen, House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, Senate Majority Leader Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, and Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, took part in a panel at the annual Associated Press preview of the upcoming legislative session.
All four said they are committed to making changes to ensure victims can feel safe in reporting harassing behavior and that those accused can be assured of due process. Employees took part in training this week and senators will next week.
“We have an opportunity to do better than we’ve done in the past,” Kristiansen said, adding moments later, “I have personally been a victim of sexual harassment on this campus. I nipped it in the bud immediately.”
After the panel ended, Kristiansen, who entered the Legislature in 2003, declined to discuss circumstances of what happened “more than 10 years ago.” He refused to say if the woman was a lawmaker, a lobbyist or a state employee. He did say the woman is no longer working on the Capitol campus.
He said he never reported what occurred but added “there were a few people who knew. I’m just telling you it happened.”
When asked why he chose to reveal the incident Thursday, he said, “Because I think often times everyone assumes it’s the women that are the victims and it’s not always the women that are the victims.”
Continuing, he said, “I have met many members down here, staff included, that have said ‘Wait a minute. Why is it I get in trouble as a man for making a compliment but what happens when a woman makes an advance or a compliment toward me, what’s the difference there?’”
Pressed about his refusal to disclose more of the circumstances and whether a lack of details might cause some to doubt him, Kristiansen responded “I really don’t care.
“If people don’t trust me enough over the years of my service here … I am just telling you that it happened,” he said. “That I nipped it in the bud and I’ve never had that issue since I’ve been here.”
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield @heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.
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