If you were to ask me where I was five years ago, it would have been a simple answer: I was in my house, not working, sick and sleeping to recover.
You see, in January of 2013, I had accepted a job offer at the Iowa Senate Republican Caucus, and to be honest, I had expected it to be my dream job - such naivety.
I was working with state senators in both the commerce and economic development committees, and initially, I was very happy in my role, working on bills and learning the legislative process.
But my job took a significantly sharp turn. One of my colleagues was fired for calling out her superiors about the prolific boys' club environment. She then in turn, and rightly so, filed a lawsuit against them and the state for their retaliation tactics. It would ultimately cost the state over $1 million in settlements for their hubris and continuation of a toxic work environment.
From there, summer of 2013 was spent watching the uppers pretend that everything was squeaky clean for the attorney general's staff. Our caucus staff also had to endure interviews by the attorney general's staff to determine if they should recommend depositions, settlements, or trial.
My story began and ended quickly. After all the interviews and fear of depositions and trials, one of the caucus staff members, who thought that none of the rules regarding harassment would ever have to apply to him, approached me with some inappropriate conversation. Two of my male colleagues also heard what was said, and they supported my decision to go to the Senate Minority Leader for help. Unfortunately, the Senate Minority Leader at that time refused to listen. I never once heard from him, and I only heard from my direct supervisor, who brushed off my concerns quickly. By then, the stress was overwhelming on my body, and physically I had many adverse affects - panic attacks, rashes, etc.
It came to the point that my therapist, doctor, and husband all agreed that my health was so deeply affected by the job, the toxic work environment, and the boys' club, that I needed to quit. After providing a two weeks' notice, they told me to leave ASAP, so I did.
From there I had one final struggle: filing for unemployment. My direct supervisor contested my application, and the conference call with the Iowa Workforce adjudicator was shocking. Lie after lie was told about my work, my health, and my departure. Thankfully, I had evidence to support my departure for h