Marion Brown, a former employee of Democratic Rep. John Conyers, spoke out for the first time Thursday about her allegations against the congressman, explaining: “it was sexual harassment.”
Speaking on NBC's Today Show, Brown recounted an incident in a Chicago hotel room in 2005, where she says Conyers invited her to his room, where he was dressed only in underwear, and harassed her.
“He asked me to satisfy him sexually. He pointed to genital areas of his body and asked me to, you know, touch it,” said Brown.
As BuzzFeed News first reported, Conyers settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 with Brown, who alleged she was fired because she would not “succumb to [his] sexual advances.”
On Thursday, Brown told the Today Show that the Michigan congressman's denial of the events made her come forward.
“Congressman Conyers came out and called me a liar, basically. So I'm here to say that I'm not a liar,” said Brown, who worked for the congressman for 11 years.
“It was sexual harassment, violating — violating my body, propositioning me, inviting me to hotels with the guise of discussing business and then propositioning me for sex. And he's just violated my body. He has touched me in different ways. It was very uncomfortable and very unprofessional,” she recounted.
Brown said that around 2010 the harassment increased.
“It got worse. I would get phone calls, asking for me to come to hotels. You know, different things like that. So this continued on throughout the years,” said Brown, noting that she told her direct supervisor and they said they spoke with Conyers about his behavior.
When asked why Brown stayed working with the congressman for over a decade, Brown spoke of not wanting to risk her own career because of Conyers' behavior.
“The congressman is a civil rights icon,” said Brown, noting that in his office she worked on the issue of prisoner re-entry, something she cared deeply about.
“A single mother of four kids, I had to raise my kids. I got gratification in the job, servicing the people. It was something that I enjoyed. You know, I needed income. So I, you know, I endured it,” explained Brown.
The settlement agreement BuzzFeed News reported includes a non-disclosure agreement, which Brown chose to break, because she said she was inspired by her own female relatives, including her granddaughter.
“I want to stand up. I felt it was worth the risk to stand up for all the women in the workforce that are voiceless,” Brown told the Today Show.
Meanwhile, Conyers was hospitalized on Thursday in Detroit, his office confirmed to BuzzFeed News. A spokesperson told a local station it was due to a “stress-related illness.”
Conyer's lawyer clarified that one of the reasons for the congressman's visit to Detroit was for a doctor's appointment.
Conyers' Democratic colleague, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who has called for Conyers to step aside over the allegations, said Congress needs to act quickly to change it system of reporting sexual harassment and misconduct — and to hold people accountable for their actions.
“If we are going to change the culture that exists, we need to send a message to women everywhere that they can come forward, we will believe them, and we will act,” said Jayapal on BuzzFeed News's morning show AM to DM.
She paid tribute to Conyers civil rights work, and notes that he is highly regarded, but that he needed to resign because of these allegations.
“If he were to step down now, I think that good will will be preserved. But if he drags this out and takes the women though a whole process and tries to fight back against these charges, I think it’s going to be very difficult,” said Jayapal.
“Really good men who have done really good thing in their careers, who have benefitted all of us, can also do terrible things,” said Jayapal.
Jayapal noted that the current process for handling sexual misconduct cases needs to be restructured, because the system is “stacked against the victim.”
The congresswoman from Washington also pointed out Democrats shouldn't support men accused of sexual misconduct just because they aren't Republicans.
“People call this a watershed moment… it is only is if we as Democrats are willing to be bold and act expeditiously,” she said.
“I don’t think we get to say we’re only going to call for that [people to step aside] when it’s people we don’t like,” she added.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates and follow BuzzFeed News on Twitter.