WASHINGTON — Senator Elizabeth Warren has stepped forward to tell of her own experience with predatory behavior as a young law instructor, joining other prominent women who have recounted their stories of sexual harassment and abuse following allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Warren was one of four female senators, all Democrats, to divulge her personal experience Sunday morning on NBC’s “Meet the Press” as part of the #MeToo campaign.
Warren told about a senior faculty member at the school where she held her first teaching job, saying he had a history of commenting on her appearance and telling dirty jokes.
The senator started as a lecturer at Rutgers School of Law in 1977, then moved to the University of Houston Law Center for an assistant professorship the next year. It is unclear which of Warren’s numerous positions early in her career she was speaking about.
One day, the faculty member invited her to his office, then lunged at her and tried to grab her, Warren said.
“It was like a bad cartoon,” she said. “He’s chasing me around the desk, trying to get his hands on me. And I kept saying, ‘You don’t want to do this. You don’t want to do this. I have little children at home. Please don’t do this.’ ”
Warren said she was ready to punch the man in the face if he caught her, but she escaped out the door.
“I went back to my office and I just sat and shook and thought, ‘What had I done to bring this on?’ ” the senator said. “I told my best friend about it. Never said a word to anyone else.’’
Warren’s Senate office did not immediately respond Sunday to a request for an interview or for more information about the attack.
The “Me Too” hashtag gained popularity after media investigations of Weinstein revealed allegations of sexual harassment from actresses such as Ashley Judd, as well as accusations of sexual assault.
The social media campaign is meant to demonstrate the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment.
In a post on social media, “Meet the Press” said it reached out to every female senator asking if they were willing to share their experiences. Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, told a story from her time as a state legislator in her 20s, when she asked for advice from the state’s speaker of the House on how to advance a bill.
“He looked at me and he paused and he said, ‘Well did you bring your knee pads?’ ” McCaskill recalled.
Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Democrat of North Dakota, spoke of when she was the state’s attorney general fighting domestic violence, and a law enforcement official approached her at an event to say something that stunned her.
“He pretty much put his finger in my face and he said, ‘Listen here, men will always beat their wives and you can’t stop them,’ ” Heitkamp recalled.
Senator Mazie Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii, said unwanted attention in situations with uneven power dynamics is all too common as a woman and that men should know better. “They should know that this is not appreciated. It’s not cute. It’s not fun,” she said.
Warren, who is among the Democrats donating political contributions from Weinstein to charity, said speaking publicly about personal experiences with sexual harassment is a way to show solidarity with others who have spoken out — and make it clear where the blame lies.
“It’s also a way to say, no, it’s not about what you did,” she said. “He’s the one who stepped out of line and this is on him.”Julia Jacobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @juliarebeccaj.