Over the past year, the #MeToo movement has fueled an upheaval in statehouses across the United States.
Karen Engleman, Indiana state representative, is among a growing group of legislators working to enact new anti-harassment laws and policies within state capitols.
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team
Anderson: A landmark 2018 study by Stop Street Harassment reports that more than 80% of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault. Among male respondents, that figure tops 40%. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers". I´m Tetiana Anderson. At the state level, select legislators are taking action against sexual misconduct. Joining me now is Karen Engleman, Indiana state representative who is being honored as one of "Governing" magazine´s 2018 public officials of the year. Representative Engleman, thank you for being here.
Engleman: Thank you.
Anderson: So you authored legislation in the state of Indiana that is now law that requires members of Indiana State General Assembly to undergo about an hour minimum of sexual harassment training. What moved you to do this?
Engleman: Well, I think as leaders, we should project the utmost integrity and professionalism at the state government level. And we also need to reassure the public that we won´t allow sexual harassment in any capacity.
Anderson: And was this a problem in the General Assembly before, or are you just trying to set an example for the future?
Engleman: Mostly to set an example. I had dealt with it at the county level. And I feel like that sometimes people don´t know the rules. They think it´s acceptable. And other people find it uncomfortable or just downright not right. They should not do that.
Anderson: So it´s not just sexual harassment that you deal with. You author legislation that deals with quality-of-life issues, that deals with health. Maternal mortality is one of those issues. What is happening in the state of Indiana when it comes to mothers dying, and what did you do to fix it?
Engleman: Indiana was ranked 7th worst in the United States, in mothers dying during childbirth and for the one year afterwards. So the bill -- we will have a Maternal Mortality Committee that will study for the next five years what causes these people to die in childbirth. And we think that at least half of those can be avoided. So, since we don´t know what it is, the healthcare providers will provide the information that the committee needs to find out what´s causing it, so we can find a solution.
Anderson: Human trafficking, another area that you´ve delved pretty deeply into -- how big of a problem is that in the state of Indiana?
Engleman: All 92 counties. And most of the trafficking is sex or labor. And I had no idea that it was so widespread. It is a very big problem.
Anderson: And what are you doing to combat that? Where are you in the process?
Engleman: My bill -- we had done a previous bill that required all practitioners, health practitioners, to -- It was mandated that they turn in suspected victims. And the thing is they were saying that they weren´t trained to spot it, and it also, the way the law was written, it endangered their license because they could be found guilty of not turning something in that they suspected. So we made it to where, if you´re 17 and under, it still has to be turned into the Department of Child Services. But if you´re 18 or over, they supply you with all the necessary assistance you can get, like the Human Trafficking Hotline.
Anderson: So there´s a lot happening in your state, a lot that keeps you busy. Indiana State Representative Karen Engleman, thank you so much for being here.
Engleman: Thank you.
Anderson: And thank you for joining us as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, be sure to visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I´m Tetiana Anderson.