Chandra Levy's memory surfaces in sexual harassment allegations

Watch Susan Levy discuss Chandra, #MeToo movement

Mother of Chandra Levy who was killed in Washington DC into 2001 spoke to The Modesto Bee.
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Mother of Chandra Levy who was killed in Washington DC into 2001 spoke to The Modesto Bee.

Chandra Levy’s mother has a message to victims of sexual misconduct: Please continue speaking up.

If the 24-year-old federal intern had lived, she might be at the front of recent #MeToo accusations against famous men taking advantage of the young and vulnerable, Susan Levy said. Chandra Levy reportedly was in a romantic relationship with her much older and married congressman around the time she disappeared in 2001.

“My heart aches that my daughter cannot speak forth her truth. So I’m speaking for her,” Susan Levy said in her Modesto home.

Chandra’s name surfaced last week as a torrent of bad-behavior accounts swamped Congress’ longest-serving member, Rep. John Conyers, along with several others in politics, Hollywood and elsewhere. A woman, now 36, told The Washington Post that Conyers evoked the then-developing investigation into Chandra’s disappearance when she — a 20-year-old intern at the time — rebuffed Conyers’ sexual advance 16 years ago.

We may never know, Susan Levy said, if Conyers — who resigned last week — really had inside information in the case or was just trying to intimidate Courtney Morse. But Levy suspects there are additional fearful victims who have yet to shake off the burden of dark secrets.

“Now we have women standing up, bravely telling their stories of sexual abuse and assault in the workplace,” Susan Levy said. “They have voices. Good for the women who survived the trauma and are still alive. But I’m a mother and must be the voice for my child, Chandra.”

Shame will keep many silent, she said, referring to her daughter as “an intern in Washington, D.C. that was sexualized and left out as garbage.

“How many others are there who could have fallen into the same mousetrap? Brave women everywhere, please come forth and tell your stories.”

A year after she vanished, Chandra’s remains were found in dense Rock Creek Park. Then-Rep. Gary Condit of Ceres was never implicated, but stubborn secrecy doomed his political career and he soon was out of office.

Authorities eventually arrested and convicted Salvadoran immigrant Ingmar Guandique, but credibility problems with a key witness led to his release last year and deportation early this year.

The MeToo movement produced a number of accusations against Conyers, who had served 52 years in Congress before resigning last week.

Some 16 years ago, Conyers dined with Morse and offered her gifts, The Post reported — conduct similar to the Condit-Levy affair. Conyers drove Morse home and proposed a romantic relationship, then brought up the Levy investigation when she refused, The Post reported.

“He said he had insider information on the case. I don’t know if he meant it to be threatening, but I took it that way,” she told The Post. “I got out of the car and ran.” She then quit the internship, the newspaper said.

Susan Levy said, “I don’t know much about politics, except it’s dirty.”

She crafted an open letter at Thanksgiving, she said, while mulling how powerful “bad boys at work” have their way with youngsters anxious for a hand up in a hard world. She decided to share her thoughts when media once again thrust her daughter’s memory into the spotlight.

“I’m a college grad, but I’m fractured, so my sentences are fractured,” Susan Levy said. “I’m not a journalism major. I’m just a heartbroken mother.

“There is a limb (in our family tree) that is broken, and it doesn’t heal,” she continued. “I say to everyone, `Hug your kids,’ because what is safe, these days?”

Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390