A New Jersey state official delivered powerful testimony to lawmakers Tuesday over her alleged rape by a man who went on to work in Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration — and how her claims were initially ignored.
“I had access to the highest positions of power, and at each turn my pleas went unanswered,” Katie Brennan, 31, the chief of staff at the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency said in Trenton before a special legislative committee, which is investigating the Murphy administration’s hiring practices.
“Somehow it wasn’t a priority to address my sexual assault … until it impacted them,” Brennan testified, according to NJ.com.
Brennan alleges that she was sexually assaulted by Albert Alvarez, the state’s ex-Schools Development Authority chief of staff and former Murphy campaign senior official, on April 8, 2017.
Brennan has claimed that she was pushed on a couch by Alvarez and was attacked inside her home after he asked to use the bathroom.
Brennan was a volunteer on Murphy’s campaign for governor at the time of the incident.
Immediately following the attack, Brennan reported the incident to police.
Brennan testified how after Murphy was elected in November 2017, she told a friend and current Murphy administration official that of the incident and that he informed Murphy’s transition team of the rape allegation and that there could be criminal charges.
The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office opened an investigation, but decided to not bring charges against Alvarez.
Brennan on Tuesday detailed how she alerted high-ranking officials in the Murphy administration about the attack – including Murphy and his wife, Tammy.
“If I can’t receive justice I don’t know who can,” Brennan said. “Not every woman is able to call the chief counsel to the state of New Jersey.”
She added: “If someone in my position was able to keep going and keep pursuing and keep alerting people, and does have access to a number of people in very high positions, I don’t know who can get justice.”
“When you watch door after door close … it’s really demoralizing,” she said.
This past June, Brennan contacted Murphy on his personal email account and asked to meet regarding a “sensitive matter” to which Murphy replied and told her “Hang in, we’re on it,” according to testimony.
Not long after, Brennan received a call from a campaign attorney who told her Alvarez was leaving the administration.
As weeks passed and Alvarez was still in his position, Brennan took her story to the Wall Street Journal, which published a piece in October, days after Alvarez resigned.
Brennan said that no one in the administration ever told her that they didn’t believe her, but she said: “When a rapist stays in a position of power then you’re choosing that that’s more important than serving justice for the survivor.”
She detailed how she feared crossing paths with Alvarez and the possibility of having a meeting with him.
“I was terrified of running into him,” Brennan said.
The legislative committee will convene next on Dec. 18.
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