RALEIGH COUNTY, WV (WVNS)– The reported victim of sexually harassing text messages from a West Virginia delegate released a statement to 59News on Thursday, October 27, 2022.
The victim, a lobbyist, wrote, “I do not want my experience to be used as a vehicle to thrust political narratives. I want to focus on awareness and prevention of sexual harassment in every capacity. It was my intention to keep this to myself; however, it was brought to my attention that there were others. I reflected on their stories. One story, in particular, was hard-hitting. It encouraged me to come forward with my own evidence. If anything comes out of this, I hope I have helped other victims and stop abuse of power.”
Her attorney, Stephen P. New of Beckley, said he sent a letter of intent to sue the West Virginia Legislature and Fayette County delegate Austin Haynes to the State of West Virginia on Friday, October 28, 2022.
New said there are multiple victims in the suit. In texts, Haynes allegedly asked the lobbyist if she’d have sex in order to get a bill passed and then texted it “happens all the time”.
He also reportedly sent a text suggesting a fellow delegate wanted him to have sex with her, in return for his support of her bill.
In a later text, Haynes apologized to the lobbyist.
“I want to apologize for last night,” Haynes said. “I had a little too much to drink. Also, I wasn’t insinuating that you sleep around to get the bill passed. I was just telling you what goes on in Charleston, sometimes.”
New, said the texts demonstrate “quid pro quo,” or “this for that,” a form of sexual harassment in which a favor is contingent upon sexual favors.
“It’s not the way America, or democracy, works, where citizenry have to sleep with legislators or be subjected to unwelcome sexual advances in order to be heard,” New said.
Haynes has not responded to requests for comment from 59News.
Haynes currently serves in the 32nd District.
He is challenged by Elliot Pritt on the November ballot in the 50th District, following redistricting by legislators in 2021.