PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A former South Dakota state senator, inspired by the dozens of women publicly accusing film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment or assault, decided to come forward Friday with her own story of being sexually harassed on the job. In turn, that inspired a lobbyist to publicly share her story of being raped by someone who also worked at the South Dakota Capitol.
Former Sen. Angie Buhl O'Donnell took to Facebook on Friday and wrote about an incident with former House Majority Leader Brian Gosch in which he made comments about her breasts and asked her for a hug.
Gosch told the Argus Leader on Friday that the comments were made in jest and not meant to make her feel uncomfortable.
Buhl O'Donnell's story inspired Samantha Spawn, a lobbyist with NARAL-Pro Choice South Dakota, to share her own story of being raped by a man who worked at the Capitol after a lobbyist event in March in Pierre. Spawn said on Facebook that the man, whom she trusted, followed her to her hotel room and repeatedly assaulted her, causing her pain that lasted for days.
Both women hope going public will create a safer culture for women, especially younger ones who work at the Capitol.
"Maybe that will be a wake-up call to people," Spawn said Friday, according to the newspaper.
The Associated Press does not generally name victims of sexual assault, but Spawn and Buhl O'Donnell chose to go public with their stories.
Spawn said she considered going to police, but was worried she would be judged.
"With the culture of hypermasculinity out there, who was going to believe me?" Spawn said. "I asked myself, 'Am I complicit in rape culture for not reporting it?'"
Buhl O'Donnell, a Sioux Falls Democrat, said during one night in 2016, Gosch made a remark about how she was repeatedly hit in the breasts during a legislative dodgeball game. She tried to change the subject, but Gosch kept talking about her breasts, she said.
Gosch said Buhl O'Donnell initiated the conversation and he joked that she was hit more than once.
"I am sorry if she was offended by that," he said in a statement to the newspaper. "It was not intended to harass her or make her feel uncomfortable."
Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com