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Experts say Esty harassment controversy highlights problems in Congress

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HARTFORD -- At the center of calls for Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty’s resignation are claims that she protected a violent staffer.

Anna Kain told the Washington Post that in May of 2016 while she was working for Esty, she reported to the Congresswoman and authorities that she was sexually harassed and punched by Esty’s then-Chief of Staff, Tony Baker.

Kain also claimed Baker left her a voicemail at one point threatening to kill her.

“A conversation that I have had with her acknowledges that she did not manage this well and it is not OK what happened,” said Karen Jarmoc, Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence President and CEO.

Many people are echoing her sentiments after Esty allowed Baker to continue working in her office until he left three months later with a recommendation from Esty that resulted in another job.

It turns out Kain wasn’t Baker’s only victim.

In a statement Esty said, "I learned that the threat of violence was not an isolated incident, but part of a pattern of behavior that victimized many of the women on my staff.”

Jarmoc said in addition to Esty, blame should also be placed on all of the U.S. Congress.

“Each member of Congress is permitted to establish their own policy for their own office and that lack of a consistent standard is very concerning,” she said.

Jarmoc said this is concerning because she said there are no uniform policies to deal with these issues in the halls of Congress.

That hasn’t stopped critics from calling for Esty’s resignation, including members of her own party.

Connecticut Representatives Mae Flexer (D-Killingly) and Diana Urban (D-Stonington) as well as State Senate President Martin Looney have all called for Esty to step down.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal has not gone that far.

But he has expressed disappointment while acknowledging that Congress needs better policies with regards to these types of incidences.

“There should be clearly and unquestionably no tolerance for harassment or assault in the workplace,” Blumenthal said.

Jarmoc said that must include the offices of elected officials.

“Congress should be held accountable to the same standards,” she said.

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