Kim Foxx, Lisa Madigan describe enduring sexual harassment in new book

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Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx (left) and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan | Sun-Times file photos

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx claims in a new book that her predecessor Anita Alvarez looked the other way despite multiple complaints of sexual harassment against a former division chief in her office.

Foxx is among 17 women from across the Illinois political sphere — including Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia — who detail their experiences of sexual harassment in former Daily Herald reporter Kerry Lester’s book “No, My Place,” which was released Wednesday.

In the book, Foxx tells of “a chief in our division who was known for everything from literally looking up women’s skirts to saying he wanted his own pretty, female intern, to asking a young woman” about performing oral sex.

Foxx says she “lobbied to get this guy fired. Problem was, he was very good friends with the former state’s attorney.”

Alvarez — who is not named in the book, referred to only by title — could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday night.

Foxx describes a tearful farewell speech that Alvarez delivered at a 2012 retirement party for the unnamed harasser.

“And it was in that moment that I knew nothing was ever going to change there,” Foxx is quoted as saying. “It’s a fruitless effort when the boss knows the predator and says, ‘He’s a good dude.’ That was it for me, and even though he was retiring, I knew I couldn’t work for her, or work there, any longer.'”

In her chapter of the book, Madigan speaks more generally about “inappropriate and uncomfortable comments” made to her at political events she attended with her parents.

“When as a state senator, a man would come to my office or serial call my phone and leave 30, 40, 50 messages a day, I snuck around the Capitol to try and avoid him,” Madigan says.

Valencia describes being pulled aside by an older female colleague while working in the state Senate, being told to go straight home after work, and not out to Springfield bars, to avoid being “labeled a slut.”

The city clerk says she took the advice. “But I also kept my head down, and didn’t speak up about all the slut shaming that went on down there. I regret that when I think about it now,” she says in the book.

Lester said that, as the #MeToo movement bubbled up nationally last summer, she began pursuing the book after more than 150 women from across state politics signed open letter detailing a culture of sexual harassment in Springfield.

“I found that many of my colleagues, sources and friends were all sharing stories,” Lester said. “You read about the #MeToo movement, but I didn’t feel like the breadth and depth of it was being adequately captured in Illinois.”

Lester said she talked to about two dozen women over two and a half months of reporting for the book, though some were not willing to go on the record for fear of workplace retaliation.

“My attempt was to show that every woman was affected by this, and it shapes how she approaches her job,” she said.

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