House lawmakers hold hearing on sexual harassment in Congress

Lawmakers Hold Hearing on Sexual Harassment in Congress

During testimony before the Committee on House Administration on Tuesday, Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) stated there are two current members of Congress, one Republican, and one Democrat who have sexually harassed people.

"Our goal is not only to raise awareness, but also make abundantly clear that harassment in any form has no place in this institution".

She disclosed her own experiences with sexual harassment as a young congressional staffer in a YouTube video last week.

"That kind of situation, what are we doing here for women, right now, who are dealing with someone like that?"

In an environment with "so many young women", said one ex-House aide, the men "have no self-control".

Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Virginia), a member of the committee that Speier was speaking to, shared a story she had heard of a congressman exposing himself to a female staffer after the staffer dropped materials off at his residence.

"I strongly encourage you to complete sexual harassment training and to mandate the training for your staff".

With a broadening national spotlight on sexual misconduct in Hollywood, the media and politics, Congress has begun to address the accusations of abuse and demands by more than 1,500 former staffers that comprehensive reforms be instituted.

These are a few of the unwritten rules that some female lawmakers, staff and interns say they follow on Capitol Hill, where they say harassment and coercion is pervasive on both sides of the rotunda.

One lawmaker, Republican Rodney Davis of IL, said that some female staffers in his office anxious that "some offices might take a shortcut and not hire women as a way to avoid these issues".

Office of Compliance staff who testified before the committee said mandatory in-person training would be a good first step toward preventing harassment. Tuesday's hearing was stark and sometimes graphic. "They want the system fixed and the perpetrators held accountable". After 30 days of mandatory mediation, during which the office or member is represented by House of Representatives counsel, they then have to go through a 30 day "cooling off period".

In the Senate, Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, is proposing a bill that would streamline the reporting process in the Office of Compliance, the little-known office that handles such complaints. "But mandatory training is one very important component of trying to stop this".

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