America’s reckoning with sexual harassment may have begun with initial reports from Hollywood, but the national discussion isn’t limited to the entertainment industry alone. Women in politics, too, have taken this watershed moment to address the purportedly widespread issue of sexual misconduct on Capitol Hill. Now, women lawmakers are tackling sexual harassment in a variety of ways, including participation in hashtag campaigns, introducing bipartisan bills to combat sexual misconduct, or simply shedding light on the oft-neglected and underreported subject.
In reports on the sexual harassment reportedly taking place in Congress, it becomes clear that the present process for reporting an incident of inappropriate sexual behavior is remarkably laborious. Under the current process executed by The Office of Compliance, it can take at least three months for a complaint to be successfully lodged.
As it stands, the federal law mandates that a congressional victim of sexual misconduct report his or her incident within 180 days of the occurrence to the Office of Compliance. Only congressional staffers can file a complaint while non-members like fellows and interns cannot. Once a congressional staffer has followed this stipulated rule, they have to agree to 30 days of counseling and30 days of mediation. The mediation period has to be successful before the victim can go to the Federal District Court with a complaint.
California Democrat Rep. Jackie Speier called the Office of Compliance’s process “toothless” as it “is not a victim-friendly process” but “an institution-protection process” which “encumbers the victim in ways that are indefensible.” With such a tedious federal method standing in the way of victims, it’s no surprise that many don’t report abuse. But that could change. Here are some of the ways women lawmakers’ participation is bringing more awareness to sexual harassment in the world of politics.
1. ME TOO Congress Act
Just in: @RepSpeier introduces ME TOO CONGRESS Act to revamp process for handling workplace sexual harassment in the Capitol. It would make members of congress pay out of pocket for sexual harassment settlements. Currently, taxpayers are on the hook. pic.twitter.com/vgeZefYw4Y
— Jon Steingart (@jonsteingart) November 15, 2017
The Member and Employee Training and Oversight On (ME TOO) Congress Act was inspired by the the social media campaign #MeToo. The ME TOO Congress Act is a bipartisan bill, led by Rep. Jackie Speier and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, which aims to simplify and streamline the previously mentioned Office of Compliance complaint system for victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment.
2. Sexual Harassment Training For House Members
Another bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, mandates sexual harassment training for House members. “Everyone deserves to feel safe and comfortable at work, and the passage of this official Senate policy is an important measure to ensure that’s the case in these halls,” Klobuchar said. Co-signing the effort, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced compulsory training for all members of the House Representatives on Wednesday.
3. Sexual Harassment Training For Senate Members
A similar resolution against sexual harassment was brought up in the Senate. Rep. Klobuchar called it a “first step” toward addressing sexual misconduct but she added that it wasn’t robust enough and would need more strengthening to help victims. “This was something we could accomplish immediately and I thought that was important. Next we are turning to the reporting piece of this,” she said.
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