Buffeted by recent revelations of inappropriate sexual behavior by major celebrities and Hollywood figures, lawmakers in the House and Senate have moved in the past week to make sure that members of Congress – and their staffers – get improved training on the issue of sexual harassment.
“A recent study found that one in four women have been sexually harassed in the workplace,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), as the Senate approved a resolution on Thursday to start mandatory sexual for Senators and their staffers.
“No place of work is immune to the all-too-prevalent scourge of sexual harassment, but we in Congress have a particular duty to set high standards of conduct,” said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA).
“Sexual harassment has no place in our society, in the workplace, and certainly not in the United States Senate,” said Sen. Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV).
The move to start such training for Senate employees came a week after House Speaker Paul Ryan had sent a memo asking House lawmakers and their workers to do the same.
A House panel will hold a hearing on the matter next Tuesday, as the recent revelations prompted Congressional leaders to act.
One of those testifying next week, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), revealed in late October that when she worked as a staffer on Capitol HIll, she had been subjected to an unwanted sexual advance in her office.
“I was attacked as a congressional staffer, and I remember the fear and shame,” Speier said, calmly looking directly into the camera, as she used a video to describe how her office boss tried to take advantage of her, appealing to female workers on Capitol Hill to come forward if they had suffered from sexual harassment.
So far, the rush of recent stories has not included any current member of Congress, but there have been hints of that from female lawmakers, past and present.
As for examples of men harassing women in the actual House and Senate,
a recent story by the Associated Press demonstrated that there is evidence of past wrongdoing, as former and current female lawmakers related stories of sexually suggestive actions by male lawmakers – some still serving in Congress.
Ex-Rep. Mary Bono (R-CA), who followed her late husband into the Congress when she was in her late 30’s, told the AP about one male colleague.
“I thought about you while I was in the shower,” Bono said the male lawmaker told her. She refused to identify him in the interview, but has spoken out about the matter in recent television interviews.
When Bono was elected to replace her husband in the U.S. House in 1998, it didn’t take long for her to be noticed.
I would often watch from the Speaker’s Lobby just off the House floor, as male Republican lawmakers – most of whom were married – basically chased Bono around the House chamber.
It often looked more like a bunch of high school guys who were desperate to get the attention of the prettiest girl in the class.