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Nancy Smith

The Jack Latvala Effect: Women of the Senate, Your Silence ISN'T Golden

December 1, 2017 - 6:00am
Jack Latvala
Jack Latvala

Where is everybody -- especially the women of the Senate? 

I understand the Bro Code is more powerful than the Honor Code in Tallahassee, but when Sen. Jack Latvala and his lawyer go clawing after a woman with guts enough to blow a whistle on his unwanted sexual advances, where's the outrage from his accuser's female support team?

I guess they weren't impressed that six women ratted out his shenanigans to Politico.

Isn't Latvala, whose lawyer just shared with the Times/Herald 208 text messages between himself and his one identified accuser, Rachel Perrin Rogers, piling on the abuse? Intimidating other women weighing the price of their courage and sacrifice to come forward? 

Come on, team. Are Latvala's bully tactics OK with you?  

I Beg to Differ

Sens. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, and Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, both sexual assault survivors, did issue a joint statement a month ago urging victims of sexual harassment who work in the Florida Legislature to speak out and file complaints. But Latvala's name never came up then.

Latvala, removed as Appropriations chairman, nevertheless first tried to put the squeeze on Rules Chair Benacquisto, asking that she be recused from his sexual harassment investigation.

It's obvious why Benacquisto needs to stay silent on the Clearwater Republican now. But where's the leadership of the rest of the Senate women?

Why isn't Book calling for Jack Latvala's head? Come on, Sens. Anitere Flores, R-Miami; Dana Young, R-Tampa; Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange; and Debbie Mayfield, R-Melbourne.

How about you, Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples; Annette Taddeo, D-Miami; Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville; and Linda Stewart, D-Orlando?

Let's hear from Denise Grimsley, R-Lake Placid; Daphne Campbell, D-North Miami Beach; and Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland.

Even Nancy Pelosi gets it. It took the top Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives awhile to come out of her partisan fog, but even Pelosi did the right thing in the end. She told reporters Wednesday she wanted Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, to step down because the sexual harassment allegations against him were "serious, credible and very disappointing." And she believed them.

And, by the way, it took NBC News less than two hours of investigation to fire Matt Lauer. 

Florida women need their state senators to act like leaders, too. If none of the other women who told their Latvala stories to Politico come forward, don't anybody be surprised.

In their Oct. 30 statement, Book and Benacquisto vowed to stand with victims: “As long as we are here, you will be heard, and we will do all that we can to help. We are your allies because, sadly, we can both say #MeToo.”

So, be their allies. 

If Nancy Pelosi can refuse to wait for the rest of Congress to play politics and wuss-out over losing a vote, then why can't Florida senators take a stand against Latvala now?

Somebody in the Senate, at least mention Latvala's name out loud, in the same breath you talk about sexual harassment allegations.

And by the way, why the silence from the half-dozen-or-so women's organizations that run up to Tallahassee to sound off on all kinds of social issues -- abortion, school prayer, for example? Disgusting behavior toward female employees doesn't bother them?

In an interview Wednesday, Latvala told the Times/Herald, "Women should not be sexually harassed in the workplace. But guys in important positions also shouldn't be sitting ducks for anonymous accusations or people coming forward with an ax to grind."

And Latvala's making sure the anonymous stay anonymous. Really. I ask you: 208 text messages spread over social media, that show nothing more than a legislative aide trying to forge an effective relationship with a Senate leader for the good of her boss's objectives (her boss, by the way, being Sen. Wilton Simpson)? Read the Times/Herald story and some of the texts.

Rogers' attorney Tiffany Cruz told the Times/Herald, "I didn't see any text messages that say you have permission to grab my body. These messages show she was doing her job -- which was to garner support for her boss, Sen. Simpson."

I don't think Latvala's defense strategy -- going for the throat of aggrieved accusers -- could work anywhere else but a boy's town like Tallahassee.  

The bottom line is, women employees perceive sexual advances as something you have to endure until you can segue to another department, or job, when you will need that very man’s reference over the course of a long career. 

Before HR became a tool of protection, some women felt they had no other option. Consider, too, the power of the person making those unwanted advances -- in this case the chairman of Senate Appropriations. Most of the time, women grit their teeth and move forward.

In the rest of life, someone approaches you and if you want to reject them, you can avoid each other. At work you return daily, the person you rejected has power over you and your career. They may actually advocate for you. There’s the hope that the behavior will not repeat. There may be no other work opportunity readily available. There’s the fear, especially when the person is powerful within the organization, of retaliation, loss of job, not being believed. 

Sexual harassment usually happens without eye witnesses. Often the women are only motivated to speak up when all their bridges are burned, when they know their silence is no longer needed because they will never need that powerful person's endorsement in the future.

Women of the Senate, it has to be you. You have the power to move the needle, change the culture for all women. You're going to have to call out to those anonymous accusers in a voice that rises above the bully tactics of the senator trying to shame them into silence. With every move Latvala is showing his disrespect for women.

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith


Let the facts come out and be what they may, until then, I think it is most appropriate not to comment either way...that includes the alleged accuser and victims...

Thank you Nancy. The female Senators are gutless cowards, who can only speak up when “praising Trump, Rick Scott, or playing the race card.” They are as vile as Jack. I’ve seen hundreds of sexually explicit text messages between Jack and Staff, lobbyists and campaign aides. These women are human beings. Some have been used by billion dollar corporations as “skirts with brains” to curry favor and secure appropriations. Failure to do so, could result in a loss of jobs and promotions. If these women, most of whom do not have millions of dollars, cannot count on their companies, law firms, lobby firms, or even the Senate to have their back. They have families who rely on their income, thus “they remain silent.” In a culture where affairs run rampant, “some women “ use sex to advance their careers (Selena Quick and Hot tub-Elise McCabe (friend of Rogers), of AT&T, Lori Weems, Ana Sanchez (Oscar Braynon side piece), Devon “disgusting” West and dozens of others), — then force other who are then subjected to harassment with little to no recourse. It’s expected that all women succumb to unwanted advances, feign acceptance; or face being ostracized and ousted. Ms. Rogers is human, her custody issues have no bearing on these claims. Regardless of what is being said and she is a flawed human, every woman in Tallahassee knows at least one fact; she is absolutely telling the truth about Jack. She’s not one of six, but more likely one of HUNDREDS of women he has harassed.

This kind of reporting is very intimidating to the people who know the players and know a flip side to this story. Maybe only chirping can be heard because they actually know the accuser. Some of us know what really goes on, and for anyone to not realize that fear of the accuser has staff terrified to come forward about her hasn’t done their due diligence, people like you jump in with opinions based upon statements made by an alleged victim without bothering to actually consider the source. People who have personal knowledge get attacked by her legal team and her pr team... not to mention the circling bird of prey known as reporters.

I think most people in the know, are more scared of the accuser, her husband, her husband's former client (GUV), and this environment where no one is allowed due process. The personality of the accuser is well-known in the senate.

Please learn the difference between "reporting" and "editorial opinion." Nancy's column is not "reporting." It is simply her opinion. Which we all have a right to. Part of the enjoyment of reading editorial opinions is stepping outside one's own thoughts to learn and perhaps even ponder (not necessarily agree) about someone else's thoughts on the same subject. Understanding that difference and allowing for the expression of it is a fundamental cornerstone of what makes us American.

Why is it that Women always have big loud mouths and tell all "their males" what to do, and how to do it; but they keep their mouths "locked up" when it really counts !

The problem for many Senators is that they have embraced a culture of promiscuity....while Latvala is being essentially being accused of being a dirty old man----there are Senators who are doing far more than making inappropriate comments. It is why you saw the push immediately after the Clemons resignation (remember---this all started with Clemons) by Senators to make a clear distinction between "harassment" and actions by "consenting adults". The problem is---some of those actions are inappropriate even if by consenting adults. Senators are required to conduct themselves with professionalism at ALL times. Senate Rule 1.35 says "Every Senator shall conduct himself or herself to justify the confidence placed in him or her by the people and, by personal example and admonition to colleagues, shall maintain the integrity and responsibility of his or her office." Perhaps this explains the chirping sound you hear coming out of the Senate.....

Nancy, You are obviously missing the point. Rachel is the only accuser. You know why there are no others coming forward? They do not exist. The original Politico story is flooded with details that are just not consistent with the facts about Jack, his office, or his habits. Some are impossible, actually, and the reason no others are coming out to cry wolf is because the real wolf is trying to disguise herself in sheep’s clothing, and that wolf is Rachel Perrin Rogers. A cursory review of her legal history through the Leon County Clerk of Court reveals her for the wolf she really is.

You are obviously trying to smear the victim. You are obviously the real wolf in sheep’s clothing. Despicable you

hold on there, bubba. you need to provide a link or something more than this scurrilous comment and at this point, unfounded (" A cursory review of her legal history through the Leon County Clerk of Court reveals her for the wolf she really is.")

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nancy smith
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