Groundbreaking sexual harassment ordinance unanimously passed by Newark city council
Newark, NJ—One by one they stepped forward, men and women who have suffered in silence, the victims of sexual harassment and abuse at the hands of employers, colleagues, clergy, friends and family members.
One woman told of being sexually abused as a young girl by a prominent city figure, while another—a man in his 50s—was sharing his story for the first time.
“I was a victim of sexual abuse between the ages of five and 16,” said Newark resident Thomas Ellis. “I thought it was only right to speak out for the men and women. I’m standing before you and shaking telling this story. I know what it’s like to be sexually abused. I know what it’s like to keep it bottled up, and I know what it’s like to finally speak out. You can live another day.”
Other victims recalled their personal experiences of abuse and harassment, urging the city council to pass a sexual harassment ordinance introduced in December by Central Ward Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins.
Newark residents turned out at Tuesday’s council meeting in support of the ordinance—the first of its kind in the city—which was passed unanimously by the city council.
Residents stood up and cheered upon passage of the ordinance that will offer greater protection to city employees who have been victims of sexual harassment, ensure that victims of harassment can come forward without fear of retaliation and calls on city council members to be notified of accusations brought forth by city employees.
The ordinance also mandates that City Hall staff and elected officials be required to participate in sexual harassment training, along with the formation of a five-member task force that would publicly review current city hall policy on the issue of sexual harassment and investigate sexual harassment claims brought forth by employees. The claims would then be brought before an independent review panel.