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Sexualized in the Senate

Senator Mallory McMorrow (D-MI). (photo courtesy of McMorrow's twitter)

On Jan. 14, Allison Donahue, a 22-year-old political reporter for the Michigan Advance and Grand Valley State University graduate, encountered Senate Majority Whip Peter Lucido in an attempt to set up an interview and left feeling “objectified and humiliated” as she states in her first-person narrative

Donahue’s original reason for approaching Lucido was for a comment about a Facebook group he was apart of, featuring anti-Gov. Gretchen Whitmer posts, degrading comments about women, and anti-Muslim rhetoric. 

“Before I turned to walk away he (Lucido) said, ‘Have you heard of De La Salle before?’ and I said that I hadn’t and he told me, ‘It’s an all boys school, you could have a lot of fun with these boys, or they could have a lot of fun with you,’” Donahue recounted. 

After which, the boys broke out in laughter. Directly following the exchange, Donahue reached out to her editor, stating she wanted to give him a chance to apologize. 

“It wasn’t the comment that necessarily knocked me off my feet, it was the fact that he knew he could get away with saying it,” tweeted Donahue. “That’s not happening anymore.”

Donahue re-approached Lucido afterwards, and he assured it was ‘Nothing personal’ and that’s how he talks to young women. Lucido stated that he said it to an all girls’ school the previous week. 

“If he’s willing to do it to me, while we’re both at our jobs, and willing to do it to younger girls who are on a school field trip… I knew that this was something that he didn’t feel ashamed to do…” Donahue said.

Weighing the impacts, Donahue knew she wanted to come forward. While she did think of the personal impact, she said the potential good outweighed the potential personal repercussions. 

However, Donahue isn’t the only one left feeling like this after an incident with Lucido. Senator Mallory McMorrow (D- Royal Oak) had a similar reaction when she first introduced herself to Lucido, shortly after she was elected.

On Nov. 8 2018, McMorrow attended a sexual harassment seminar with other Michigan senators. Afterward, McMorrow recalled introducing herself to Lucido. 

“He shook my hand and then put his hand on the very, very low of my back, so his fingers were on my hip and upper rear area, and held it there,” said McMorrow. “He had a conversation with me while holding my lower back, with an arm wrapped around me.”

During their conversation McMorrow said they had spoken about where she was from and who she ran against, to which she answered Marty Knollenberg. 

“He pulled back and looked me up and down and raised his eyebrows and said, leeringly, ‘I can see why’ which just implied you won because of what you look like,” said McMorrow. 

McMorrow recalled this encounter as being “surprising and shocking.”

“It was frustrating because I had quit my job to run for office,” McMorrow said. “I ran a campaign for a year and a half of my life… against an incumbent senator, in one of the most competitive races in the state if not the country.”

Once McMorrow saw that this occurred to someone else, she stated that her “heart sank because it felt familiar.”

“I knew then (after reading about what happened to Donahue) that I wanted to file a report,” said McMorrow, but it wasn’t going to be public, at first.

After hearing Lucido’s comment to Fox 2 Detroit, where he stated “she (Donahue) interpreted them (his words) and gave it the content she did, I apologize for that, but I can’t say that what I said to her was inappropriate…” McMorrow said she knew she had to go public with her complaint.

Lucido stated to the Detroit Free Press that he denied McMorrow’s allegations and claimed that it is politically motivated. The Collegiate contacted Lucido for comment, but neither Lucido or his team responded.

“There is no space in the world where a woman coming forward with a sexual harassment complaint has benefitted her career,” McMorrow said. 

While an apology would be nice, McMorrow said that it won’t change the culture.

“What I hope happens, from telling my story, is that I enable more people to feel comfortable coming forward, because we have to change the culture in Lansing,” she said.

“My advice to anybody, if you see it, especially if it didn’t happen to you, we need other voices at the table to collectively say that it’s not okay,” McMorrow said. “If you see it, talk about it. For those of us who have experienced it, be supportive of other people… I’m happy to talk to people.”

Donahue echoed McMorrows advice, if you go through something, speak up.

“For everyone, it’s unique for them,” said Donahue. “I understand that, for me, I had the support that I needed… I hope that this shows that even if you don’t feel it in that moment you do have the support that you need. There isn’t a time limit on when you can speak up.”