Activist accuses Sen. Silverstein of sexual harassment at public hearing
Denise Rotheimer publicly accused Majority Caucus Whip Sen. Ira I. Silverstein (D–Chicago) of sexually harassing her.
“I want these Facebook messages to be presented, I want the phone calls and all the communication between Silverstein and me to be exposed because I want him to answer for it,” Rotheimer said this morning at a House Personnel and Pensions Committee hearing on sexual harassment. “It is wrong and unconscionable and I do not tolerate it and that is why I am here today.”
Rotheimer, founder of Mothers On a Mission to Stop Violence who worked on several bills advocating for victims of sexual assault after her 11-year-old daughter was raped, spoke personally about the alleged abuse to House Speaker Michael Madigan and the committee.
Rotheimer said the harassment began in 2015 after she attempted to introduce a third bill sponsored by Sen. Pamela Althoff (R-McHenry). After giving testimony on the bill, Silverstein contacted her.
"He told me how commendable I was for the work I had done and wanted to know how he could help me," she said. "I told him to get in touch with Sen. Althoff so he could be a co-sponsor and before I knew it, he became the sponsor.”
She said the harassment went on from May 2015, when she received his first call, until April 2016.
“I went into a crisis,” Rotheimer said. “I lost 20 pounds, my hair fell out and I was so scared I was going to have admit myself into a hospital. I had no control. He had so much power over me. The mind games he played and the tactics he played because he knew (the proposed bill) was close to my heart.”
Rotheimer thanked Madigan who, at the hearing, suggested lawmakers attend sexual harassment training.
“Thank you speaker for including training,” Rotheimer said. “It dumbfounds me to think any person thinks a woman wants to be told she is intoxicating, especially if he is a married man.”
She said Silverstein told her she looked like a movie star.
“He told me he liked having meetings with me because I was pretty,” Rotheimer said. “It is so unfortunate that we are used.”
She said by April 2016, she filed her first complaint with the executive office of the Inspector General, who referred her to Senate President John Cullerton, who told her he would be willing to talk to Silverstein.
“I have 400 pages from the time Silverstein started this invading my space, and I submitted it as evidence,” Rotheimer said. “He would Facebook me at midnight, call me at midnight, you have no idea the torment. I went to my state's attorney to have him take my place on the bill because I could not take it anymore, but I was told I am the best person."
She said Silverstein killed the bill when he thought she had a boyfriend. When she said she didn't, he brought the bill “back to life.”
“I knew the power he had over my bill,” Rotheimer said. “How was I to walk away and abandon it?”
She said she came forth at the meeting because she felt like there was no one she could go.