Protecting individuals vulnerable to the abuse of power

December 22, 2018

In May of this year, I publicly accused Rep. Carl Trujillo of sexually harassing me while I worked at the state Legislature in 2013 and 2014. My goal of my open letter was to protect other women from Trujillo’s harassing behaviors by seeing him removed from the Legislature. I asked Rep. Trujillo to resign voluntarily. After he did not, voters of his district removed him from office.

As formal ethics proceedings took hold after my open letter was published, I felt it was most prudent to step back, let the investigation take its course and allow my counsel to advocate for me. But I now feel like I need to use my own voice to help explain what has happened over the past seven months.

Despite allegations from multiple accusers against Trujillo, some have tried to frame this case as a “he said/she said” matter. My case is more accurately framed as “he said/she said and they said, too.” The Legislature’s subcommittee found probable cause of harassment. My account was corroborated by multiple witnesses who were interviewed by the Legislature’s investigators and later deposed under oath by Trujillo’s attorneys.

I also was prepared to testify under oath regarding the sexual harassment that I was subjected to by Trujillo. I had offered to testify under oath in my first interview with the Legislature’s investigators, but this offer was declined. Instead, I was told that the interview transcript was only for note-taking purposes, and then the transcript would be destroyed — that no one else would see the transcript. Months later, I was shocked to learn that the transcript of my supposedly private interview was not only given to Trujillo’s attorneys upon request, but also posted on the Legislature’s website for all to see.

Trujillo’s attorneys also demanded I disclose the names of everyone I had communicated with regarding the sexual harassment I had experienced from Trujillo. I knew this list included the names of women who shared their own experiences of being sexually harassed, communications made in the strictest confidence.

After seeing Trujillo’s aggressive reaction to my allegations, I believed his team wanted the names to attempt to intimidate and harass more individuals, particularly those associated with me. I absolutely refused to give the names of these women to Trujillo.

Unfortunately, I was ordered by a judge to produce the requested names anyway, including written communications with these women, as well as my health records — and if I continued to refuse, then I would not be allowed to testify as a witness in the scheduled proceedings against Trujillo. After agonizing over the decision, I chose to be excluded as a witness rather than to violate the confidence of other victims of harassment and further sacrifice my privacy.

I stand by my decision. I started this process determined to protect other sexual harassment victims and defy the intimidation and attacks leveled at survivors, and I have ended this process doing the same.

My hope is that everyone involved can learn from this first experience with the new anti-harassment policy and continue to improve it to protect the privacy of victims of sexual harassment.

I am grateful for the many strong individuals and organizations who have supported and helped me through this year. Every victim deserves the level of support that I am receiving and more. We as a community have a long-term responsibility to respect and protect each other, starting with individuals vulnerable to the abuse of power. I am proud of the steps I took to bring us closer to this reality.

Laura Bonar is chief program and policy officer for Animal Protection Voters. She lives in Albuquerque.

Update hourly