California assemblywoman and #MeToo advocate Cristina Garcia has been accused of sexual harassment, and the movement is getting complicated
The #MeToo movement has been a heartbreaking but totally necessary conversation regarding sexual assault and harassment, and — after allegations against Aziz Ansari added more nuance to a much-needed dialogue about consent — the conversation is set to expand again. Democratic California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, outspoken advocate of the #MeToo movement, has taken an unpaid leave of absence following accusations of sexual misconduct.
Garcia, who has denied the allegations she made inappropriate advances toward two men, was included in Time’s 2017 Person of the Year, the “Silence Breakers.” She’s known for introducing legislation to make secretly removing a condom sexual assault, and she also co-wrote the bill expanding the legal definition of rape in her state.
Garcia’s strong support for women’s issues, however, makes the accusations against her all the more concerning.
“Upon reflection of the details alleged, I am certain I did not engage in the behavior I am accused of," Garcia said in a statement in response to the allegations.“However, as I've said before, any claims about sexual harassment must be taken seriously, and I believe elected officials should be held to a higher standard of accountability. Therefore, I am voluntarily taking an immediate unpaid leave from my position in the State Assembly.
The investigation into Garcia’s reported behavior began after Daniel Fierro, a former legislative staffer to Assemblyman Ian Calderon, told Calderon that Garcia had “stroked his back and buttocks, and reached for his groin at a legislative softball game in 2014.” Meanwhile, an unnamed lobbyist said Garcia “propositioned him and attempted to grab his crotch at a fundraising event in 2017,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
"I worried before [the story published] it would be treated or received differently because of the gender dynamics involved," Fierro told the Times. "There is clearly a culture that affects both men and women in the Capitol that needs to be improved on and made stronger so the Capitol can do the good work that it has to do."
Some say the allegations have the potential to derail Garcia’s burgeoning career, while others in her circle remain supportive.
“Her entire elected career — and previous to that as an activist — has been the tip of the spear, charging forward to give voice to the underserved and voiceless,” said Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman. “When you play that role, you make yourself a target.” false
Most importantly, however, the allegations against Cristina Garcia shouldn’t distract from the importance of the #MeToo movement.
Regardless of how the investigation unfolds, we’re glad the #MeToo movement continues to evolve. Sexual assault and harassment — regardless of gender dynamics — deserve to be treated with the same concern. This is only the beginning of a societal revolution. We’ll need to have more conversations like these to ensure we make lasting change a reality.