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Mostly male board will decide whether lawmaker faces censure for sexual harassment

via ABC
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Nebraska state senator Machaela Cavanaugh implored the legislature’s executive board to hold a colleague accountable for invoking her name during a graphic reading about sexual violence on the legislative floor.

The remarks by Senator Steve Halloran visibly shook Cavanaugh.

“If we don’t move this forward, we are in fact condoning this kind of speech,” Cavanaugh said. “This has traumatized the public. It has traumatized my family.”

While Halloran claimed he meant to get her brother’s attention, Cavanaugh cast doubt on this and said Halloran had privately recited the scene to her before.

She tearfully argued this constituted sexual harassment regardless of the target.

“I said something to the effect of, ‘OK, Steve. I’m going to walk away now,’” Cavanaugh said.

The executive board, made up mostly of men, will decide whether Halloran faces censure.

Cavanaugh testified about the trauma caused, while Halloran declined to attend but denied it violated rules.

“An accusation of sexual harassment is one of the most significant accusations that can be made in our modern world,” Halloran wrote. “Look at the last decade for evidence of this. Even a false accusation — even if made just once — can be the death knell to somebody’s career and livelihood.”

“Suppose I enslaved Sen. Slama and used her the way I wanted to?” Sen. Ernie Chambers said.

Senator Julie Slama, the board’s only woman, supported Cavanaugh and recalled her own experience with inappropriate remarks years ago.

“The same people that are trying to silence you now are the ones who pressured me not to act in 2020,” Slama told Cavanaugh. “You’ve had so much courage in this that I didn’t have.”

Cavanaugh apologized to Slama for not doing more to come to her defense four years earlier.

“You had the courage,” Cavanaugh said. “You just didn’t have the support.”

The board did not make an immediate decision.

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