An official in the administration of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D.) testified on Tuesday about the sexual assault she says she suffered at the hands of a senior campaign worker, accusing the governor's staff of failing to act properly in response to her report of rape.
"I had access to people in the highest positions of power in the state of New Jersey, and at each turn, my pleas for help went unanswered. Somehow, it wasn’t a priority to address my sexual assault," the woman, Katie Brennan said, before adding that Murphy's administration continued "working with my rapist until it impacted them."
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Her testimony before the statehouse and the case "threatens to thwart [Murphy's] ambitious agenda and cast a stain over his progressive image," the New York Times reported. The governor, who is the head of the Democratic Governors Association, has a reputation as a "champion for women."
"Even if the case bogs down into a messy, inconclusive ‘he said, she said' episode, or if his top aides are found guilty of nothing more than bureaucratic self-protection, it's hard to see how Murphy escapes from this unscathed," NJ.com columnist Charles Stile wrote.
"Just the knowledge that there was an accusation of sexual assault by one transition team member against one of the transition team’s senior staffers should have been enough to trigger action," Brennan said. "Yet still, nothing."
The accused, Albert Alvarez, according to Brennan, assaulted her in his apartment after a campaign event last year. He went on to serve as chief of staff in the Schools Development Authority before resigning in October.
Murphy claims he never heard directly about the accusations until a Wall Street Journal article was published in October. Brennan disputes his claim. She says after numerous pleas to top officials went unheard, she turned directly to Murphy.
"I thought that if any administration could make progressive reforms, it would be this one," she said. "So on the evening of Friday, June 1, I emailed the governor and first lady, Tammy Murphy." She said she needed to discuss a "sensitive matter" and Murphy responded by saying, "We know you well. Hang in. We're on it."
Brennan never heard from Murphy again. She was, however, contacted by a lawyer who worked for the campaign who informed her Alvarez would leave the administration. Two months later, Alvarez still held his position, and Brennan chose to go to the press.
"We can believe survivors," Brennan said. "We can stop ‘he said, she said’ from always becoming ‘he said.’ We can improve the justice system."