Oregon state senator among TIME Person of the Year

Oregon Senator Sara Gelser among TIME Person of the Year 2017: The Silence Breakers

Oregon State Senator Sara Gelser is part of TIME Magazine's Person of the Year: The Silence Breakers. (KOIN)
Oregon State Senator Sara Gelser is part of TIME Magazine's Person of the Year: The Silence Breakers. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon State Senator Sara Gelser is among the women recognized by TIME Magazine as part of TIME Person of the Year 2017: The Silence Breakers.

Gelser, D-Corvallis, was at the forefront of accusations against Senator Jeff Kruse. She filed a formal complaint over sexual harassment last month. Gelser said Kruse touched her breasts, put his hand on her thigh, kissed her cheek and whispered in her ear so closely that he left her ear wet.

This image provided by Time magazine, shows the cover of the magazine’s Person of the Year edition as “The Silence Breakers,” those who have shared their stories about sexual assault and harassment. The magazine’s cover features Ashley Judd, Taylor Swift, Susan Fowler and others who say they have been harassed. (Time Magazine via AP)

Gelser was featured in the magazine among other women who helped propel the #MeToo movement forward and bring sexual harassment allegations against powerful men to media attention.

“This issue for me isn’t about the experience I had,” Gelser told KOIN 6 News. “It’s about the culture in my workplace, it’s about the fact that sexual harassment is not a partisan issue. It’s a workplace issue and it’s something we have the power to change.”

Gelser said she’s not allowed to talk about Kruse now that there’s a formal investigation underway, but he has denied any wrongdoing.

After her complaint was filed, other women came forward with similar allegations. She explained why some women hesitate to speak up.

“There is a lot of self questioning that goes on. Did I misinterpret the action? Am I overreacting? Maybe the person didn’t mean it. I don’t want to embarrass anyone or make anyone feel bad,” Gelser said. “I think all of those things are rushing through your mind. At the same time you’re questioning as it’s happening, ‘oh my gosh, is this actually happening right now?'”

She hopes the TIME Magazine attention sparks more change.

“The stories I have heard from women over the past 2 months about their experiences in the Capitol and activities associated with it are so disheartening,” she said. “I want those women and some men to be able to see change at the end of all this.”