Panel created to examine how to free NJ politics of misogyny and sexual misconduct

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A panel of women will examine how to free New Jersey's political culture of misogyny and sexual misconduct.

State Sen. Loretta Weinberg announced the panel's members and plans at a news conference Thursday afternoon in Newark. Weinberg says that this will be the beginning of change in the state.

"It seems as if powerful people and institutions are generally only willing to address the issue of misogyny, sexual harassment and assault when they're forced to not look away,” says Patricia Teffenhart, of the NJ Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Weinberg formed the group in the aftermath of an NJ Advance Media article that examined the culture inside of the State House and at outside political events like the Chamber Train's annual Walk to Washington.

“Twenty women told of being groped, propositioned, harassed, sexually assaulted,” says Weinberg.

RELATED: Murphy administration 'appalled' by NJ.com report about sexual misconduct in politics 

The panel includes Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver - who previously served in the Legislature and as Assembly speaker.

"As women, we know that we have the strength among us collectively to change the culture,” Oliver says. "I started my career in the public sectors in 1978. I've seen the good. I've seen the bad and I've seen the ugly."

Members of the panel will hold listening sessions in public and in private and will host an online survey to get more data on women's experiences.

"We create group texts to check in with our colleagues at conventions and conferences. We never walk alone or accept drinks from anyone but ourselves. Our guard is constantly up and we have to evaluate if one more event, one more connection, one more part of our night is worth walking out into the unknown,” says Sabeen Masih, with Capital Impact Group.

The panel says that the goal is to change the climate of Trenton and make state politics safer and more equitable.

"And we are going to change the things, put a spotlight on things that need to change,” Weinberg says.

Both women and men are encouraged to fill out the survey.

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