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'There cannot be meaningful change til one takes accountability for their own actions'

Oregon State Capitol (SBG)

SALEM, Ore. - Under calls from the Oregon's Democratic governor and members of his own Republican party, Sen. Jeff Kruse tendered his resignation Thursday, just 2 days after an independent investigation found evidence he engaged in a pattern of sexual harassment toward two female state senators as well as other women at the Oregon state Capitol.

The report came in response to a formal complaint from Oregon state Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, about Kruse's behavior.

Gelser said Friday that she wishes she had taken action sooner.

"I wish that I had better understood it a decade ago when this started that no one has to just put up with this to get their work done," she said in a phone interview with KVAL News. "You don't want to create ripples, you don't want to offend people, you don't want to cause problems - but we have to be able to change the behavior, and that means claiming our space in the workplace and saying we deserve to be here with out being touched."

WATCH | Sen. Sara Gelser speaks to KATU News

"Those of us that have the power and opportunity to come forward really have an obligation to do that to create space for women that don't," Gelser said. "There is definitely something that can be done about it, and women deserve to come to work in this Capitol to be safe, to be respected and to be able to launch their careers without having to sacrifice their dignity to do it."

Going forward, Gelser would like to see the legislature improve the reporting process and rules "so that the presiding officers have more authority to take action to keep people safe when there are known and substantiated to place women at risk.

"We also need to create a process that is more timely, that moves more rapidly," she said. "That is important for those that have made reports, and the issues need to be resolved quickly rather than be hanging on for months and months."

Kruse's resignation doesn't take effect until March 15, but he has been absent from the Capitol and out of sight this week.

The investigative report now heads to the Senate Committee on Conduct, which will review it during a public hearing Thursday, Feb. 22, at 5 p.m. in Hearing Room A.

Even then, Gelser suggested there might be more to be done in this situation.

In resigning, Kruse continued to deny the allegations.

"There is a 51 page report that substantiates all of the allegations, and there cannot be meaningful change til one takes accountability for their own actions," Gelser said. "Forgiveness requires an apology that is sincere and takes accountability for actions, and that has not come."

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