Friday, 17 November, 2017

Congresswoman Says Two Current Members of Congress Sexually Harassed Staffers

At hearing on sexual harassment in Congress, Virginia Rep. Comstock tells story of sitting member exposing himself to staffer Dem Rep: Current House Members 'Engaged in Sexual Harassment,' Grabbed 'Private Parts' on House Floor
Bennie Garza | 14 November, 2017, 22:34

Two US lawmakers on Tuesday stood accused of sexual harassment, including one who allegedly exposed himself to a young staffer, amid mounting concern over abuse on Capitol Hill.

"These harasser propositions, such as, 'Are you going to be a good girl?', to perpetrators exposing their genitals, to victims having their private parts grabbed on the House floor - all they ask in return as staff members is to be able to work in a hostile-free work environment", Speier told the committee. She shared a story of a male lawmaker - still in Congress - who asked a young female staffer to bring materials to his residence.

Lawmakers in Washington are tackling their own allegations of sexual misconduct.

She was "greeted with the member in a towel... who then invited her in", Comstock told the committee, in what appeared to be an account of a third lawmaker abusing a female staffer.

Later this week, Speier will also introduce legislation to overhaul the process that victims of harassment undergo when they file complaints to the Office of Compliance, which she has called "toothless" and says is created to protect harassers and not the harassed.

In her prepared remarks to the committee, Speier said her office had been "inundated" with calls from current and former staffers who recounted being subjected to inappropriate comments and sexual assault. On Tuesday, speaking before the Committee on House Administration, Speier said that since launching #MeTooCongress, current and former staffers have flooded her office with stories of unwanted sexual advances, touching, and, in one case, exposure.

"What are we doing for women right now who are dealing with somebody like that?" she asked.

Speier, who said he's had "numerous" conversations with both female and male staffers who "have been subjected to this inexcusable and sometimes illegal behavior", argued for reforming the system by which victims seek redress. Kirsten Gillibrand recently announced legislation aimed at overhauling the current process staffers take to report sexual harassment.

One possible solution to the issue has already been suggested - mandatory sexual harassment training for all lawmakers and their staff. She never filed an official complaint, but learned to avoid being near him.

Byrne also called for requiring members accused of harassment to reimburse the Treasury for settlement payments and strictly prohibiting them from pursuing sexual relationships with staffers. The Senate passed a resolution last week mandating such training for members and aides. The House may soon follow.

"There is no place for sexual harassment in our society, period".

Female lawmakers have been leading the charge in forcing Congress to reckon with sexual harassment, whether with sharing stories or introducing legislation.

"It is uncomfortable for women to talk about".

Noting the Weinstein scandal and how it started the #MeToo movement, Comstock said that in Congress, "We need to make it easier for the victims to come forward".

"So it's important that the men talk about it too, because then it's not just the women saying something and making men feel uncomfortable".

"It is a man's world, it's still a man's world", Bono said of the environment in Congress.

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