Female Lawmakers Allege Sexual Harassment By Colleagues

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Several female members of Congress have come forward to allege that they experienced sexual harassment from male peers in the House and Senate. They have not named their harassers, but have called for a change in both chambers' work environments.

On Nov. 3, one current three former female lawmakers disclosed that they had been sexually harassed by male congressmen, The Associated Press reports.

Former GOP Rep. Mary Bono of California stated that a male colleague in the House had repeatedly made inappropriate sexual comments to her before she confronted him in the chamber.

"Instead of being, 'How's the weather, how's your career, how's your bill,' it was, 'I thought about you while I was in the shower,'" Bono recalled. "So it was a matter of saying to him, 'That's not cool, that's just not cool.'"

Bono added that the congressman, whom she says still serves in the House, stopped making sexual remarks to her after she challenged him.

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"It's a man's world, it's still a man's world," Bono said of Congress.

Former Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California disclosed that a male colleague made sexual comments to her on the congressional floor and was met with laughs by other male lawmakers in the 1980s.

"This is about power. ... That was an example of the way I think we were thought of, a lot of us. ... It's hostile and embarrasses, and therefore could take away a person's power," Boxer said.

Democratic Rep. Linda Sanchez of California disclosed that a male colleague had made sexual advances toward her early in her career.

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"When I was a very new member of Congress in my early 30s, there was a more senior member who outright propositioned me, who was married, and despite trying to laugh it off and brush it aside, would repeat," Sanchez said.

Sanchez added that she didn't see the point in outing the male colleague because there is no mechanism for removing members of Congress for inappropriate behavior.

"Ultimately they're employed by their constituents," Sanchez said.

Former Democratic Rep. Hilda Solis of California recalled a similar experience involving a male colleague repeatedly harassing her with sexual comments.

"What I tried to do was ignore it, turn away, walk away," Solis said. "Obviously it's offensive. Are you supposed to be flattered? No, we're adults. Not appropriate."

On Oct. 27, Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier of California disclosed on a social media video that she was sexually assaulted by a lawmaker's chief of staff when she was working as a congressional staffer. Speier urged other lawmakers to join the social media #MeToo campaign that began in the wake of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein's sexual abuse scandal, according to HuffPost.

"I know what it's like to keep these things hidden deep down inside. ... There is nothing to fear in telling the truth," Speier said. "And it's time to throw back the curtain on the repulsive behavior that until now has thrived in the dark without consequences."

The House Speaker, GOP Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, forwarded an email to House members after the four female lawmakers came forward with their stories.

"In recent weeks, report of sexual harassment by public figures have been deeply disturbing to say the least," Ryan wrote, according to Newsweek. "I have heard from members with real concerns about the House's policies."

GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York have announced separate bills to revamp how Congress handles internal sexual harassment claims.

Sources: AP, HuffPostNewsweek / Featured Image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr / Embedded Images: U.S. Congress via Wikimedia Commons (2)

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