CW: This article references sexual harassment. Please refer to the end of the article for on- and off-campus resources.
Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has launched an investigation into John Falcicchio, former chief of staff and deputy mayor for planning and economic development, after sexual harassment allegations were made against him.
Falcicchio resigned on March 17 without explanation after a D.C. government employee filed a sexual harassment complaint against him. Bowser said in a March 20 press release that she would not provide details on Falcicchio’s departure due to the sensitivity of the matter — but she and her colleagues support the investigation.
“I know you have many questions, but please understand that as this is a sensitive matter that includes privacy concerns, we will not be able to discuss it any further,” Bowser said in the press release.
“The legal counsel’s office is leading the investigation, following established policies and procedures. I have made it clear that my expectation is that all staff will cooperate fully with this investigation,” Bowser added.
The employee filing the allegation has hired attorneys Debra Katz and Kayla Morin of Katz Banks Kumin, a law firm specializing in cases of employment, civil rights and whistleblowing. The firm has represented several high profile clients, including Christine Blasey Ford, who testified against Supreme Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Katz and Morin issued a response in the hours following the press conference, stating that while they will not reveal their client’s exact identity because of the gravity of the situation, she is a confirmed D.C. government employee.
“It is our understanding that this behavior is longstanding and our client is cooperating fully with the investigation, which Mayor Bowser initiated immediately,” Katz and Morin said in the March 20 press release.
“Our client is courageous. She came forward to ensure accountability and protect other women. Given the gravity of our client’s allegations — which involve unwelcome advances and sexual contact — we ask the media to respect her privacy,” Katz and Morin wrote.
Bowser said the allegations against Falcicchio are not related to the business of her office.
“I can also tell you that this investigation does not involve any allegations of improprieties related to business transactions. There is no reason for our important work on behalf of the residents of the District of Columbia to slow down,” Bowser said.
The accusation against Falcicchio signifies the broader issue of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Working in a setting of large power differentials is one of many risk factors for workplace sexual harassment. 38% of women have experienced sexual harrassment at the workplace. Impacts of harassment include mental health problems, career disruptions and low earnings.
Soraya Bata (SFS ’24), co-director of advocacy and organizing at H*yas for Choice — a pro-choice, sex-positive, reproductive justice group at Georgetown University — said open conversations on the issue of sexual harassment in workplaces is vital.
“Sexual harassment is a rampant issue in most professional workplaces, and government is no exception,” Bata wrote to The Hoya. “Men in positions of power often feel that they can engage in exploitative conduct and face no consequences, because so often, they do so successfully. This is why it is so important to have frank conversations on sexual harassment: talking about the issue promotes accountability.”
Bata said that sexual harassment, whether in the workplace or otherwise, strips a survivor of their autonomy and sense of self.
“When anyone, but especially a workplace superior, sexually harasses someone, they are saying to their victim that they don’t have the autonomy to decide how they are treated or regarded in their workplace,” Bata wrote. “The survivor doesn’t get to decide whether they want to be addressed or spoken about in a sexual or intimate manner — the perpetrator makes that decision for them.”
On-campus resources include Health Education Services (202-687-8949) and Counseling and Psychiatric Service (202-687-6985)); additional off-campus resources include the D.C. Rape Crisis Center (202-333-7273) and the D.C. Forensic Nurse Examiner Washington Hospital Center (844-443-5732). [If about clerical assault: Individuals can also report sexual misconduct by a Jesuit by contacting the province’s victim advocate at [email protected].] If you or anyone you know would like to receive a sexual assault forensic examination or other medical care — including emergency contraception — call the Network for Victim Recovery of D.C. (202-742-1727). To report sexual misconduct, you can contact Georgetown’s Title IX coordinator (202-687-9183) or file an online report here. Emergency contraception is available at the CVS located at 1403 Wisconsin Ave NW and through H*yas for Choice. For more information, visit sexualassault.georgetown.edu.
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