Rep. Jackie Speier said Tuesday she’s aware of two lawmakers, one Democrat and one Republican, who are currently in office despite allegedly harassing House staffers.
House lawmakers on Tuesday joined together to discuss sexual harassment policies after a series of allegations sparked calls for reform on Capitol Hill. Travis Moore, a former aide to ex-Rep. Henry Waxman, last week called for an overhaul of the “inadequate sexual harassment policies” in Washington with a letter that has since gathered more than 1,500 signatures, CNN reported.
Speier, who has proposed legislations requiring mandatory sexual harassment training as well as an easier process for reporting offenders, testified Tuesday that she’s aware of two sitting members who “engaged in sexual harassment,” though she did not name them.
The California democrat, who has shared accounts of her own encounters with sexual assault using the hashtag “#MeTooCongress,” said her office has since been “inundated with calls from former Hill staffers subjected to inexcusable behavior and sexual assault.
“From comments like ‘Are you going to be a good girl?’ to harassers exposing their genitals, to victims having their private parts grabbed on the House floor, women and men have trusted me with their stories. All they asked in return was that we fix our abusive system and hold the perpetrators accountable,” the politician said.
Rep. Barbara Comstock shared similar stories, specifically recalling how a congressman exposed himself to a female staffer.
“What are we doing here for women right now, who are dealing with someone like that?” the Republican representative pondered.
More than 50 lawmakers, both current and former, described their experiences with sexual harassment during their time in Congress and on Capitol Hill in interviews with CNN. Nearly every person that sat down with the news outlet recalled an environment of harassment and coercion on both sides of the political spectrum.
Whispered among female lawmakers, staff and interns at Capitol Hill is an informal “creep list,” made up of the names of male colleagues most likely to engage in inappropriate behavior.
Offenses that can land a staffer on the roster include targeting younger employees for physical relationships as well as making lewd or suggestive comments.
“Amongst ourselves we know,” a former unidentified Senate staffer told CNN. “There is a certain code amongst us, we acknowledge among each other what occurs.”
Staffers told the news station how they would avoid taking elevators alone with certain colleagues as well as how they declined to tell their stories out of fear for ruining their careers. Nearly all those who spoke with CNN asked to remain anonymous, explaining they were still worried about the backlash.
The Senate earlier this month approved a resolution making sexual harassment training mandatory for staffers, interns and Senate lawmakers — with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell lending their voices to support the cultivation of a workplace free of harassment.