In response to an Associated Press report on Friday which detailed allegations of sexual misconduct on Capitol Hill, House Speaker Paul Ryan and others are now calling for lawmakers and their staff members to undergo mandatory sexual harassment training.
Last month it was sexual harassment in the Hollywood entertainment industry, but new reports of historic and ongoing sexual misconduct perpetrated against female lawmakers have shifted the national spotlight on gender hostility in the workplace onto the upper echelons of government. Now, a series female staffers and lawmakers are speaking out about their experiences of having to fend off unwanted advances, sexual comments and, in one case detailed by the AP, physical contact from a male colleague in Congress.
On Friday, Ryan (R-Wis.) sent lawmakers a letter urging them to make training mandatory for their staff members.
“Any form of harassment has no place in this institution. Each of us has a responsibility to ensure a workplace that is free from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation,” he wrote. “We can and should lead by example.”
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called for passage of Democratic-sponsored legislation that would require anti-harassment training, enhance anti-retaliation protections for staffers who report harassment, and streamline dispute resolution.
Americans have long been well-informed about the womanizing ways of former U.S. presidents, including JFK and Bill Clinton, but this new push to focus on the issue suggests that Congress’ tendency to self-police has resulted in nothing more than “a complaints clearinghouse lodged in an Office of Compliance that requires a lengthy counseling and mediation period — and that many staffers have not even heard of,” according to a Washington Post report on Saturday.
“I think we are at a tipping point in our country,” Pelosi told The Associated Press. “For a long time the Congress was a place where every congressional office had its own rules. … The system needs to be changed.”
The House Administration Committee, which oversees the operations of the House, also announced plans to hold a hearing Nov. 14 focused on training, policies and mechanisms in place to guard against and report sexual harassment.