Gillibrand to introduce bill to combat sexual harassment in Congress
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said on Friday that she will introduce legislation aimed at combating sexual harassment around Capitol Hill as female lawmakers and staffers increasingly speak out about their own experiences.
“We must ensure that this institution handles complaints to create an environment where staffers can come forward if something happens to them without having to fear that it will ruin their careers,” Gillibrand said in a statement.
She added that “you see time and again in institutions all around the country … a culture where power and fear keep sexual assault and sexual harassment in the shadows. Congress is no different.”
In addition to requiring that the Office of Compliance’s voluntary sexual harassment training be mandatory, the forthcoming legislation — according to a breakdown from Gillibrand’s office — would streamline the office’s system for reporting sexual harassment and filing complaints, as well as create a new position “to serve as a confidential advisor for victims of harassment.”
It would also give interns more resources, require that staffers post information around a lawmakers’s offices and require a survey to study the breadth of potential sexual harassment around the Capitol.
Four in 10 of the women who responded to a Roll Call survey earlier this year said they believed Capitol Hill had a sexual harassment problem, while 1 in 6 said they had experienced it personally.
One current lawmaker and three former lawmakers told The Associated Press that they had experienced sexual harassment or hostile comments around the Capitol. Staffers also described to Roll Call the worry that reporting an incident would negatively impact their careers.
The push for Congress to take a tougher stance on sexual harassment has gained momentum in the wake of a spate of high-profile allegations of sexual harassment and assault around the country.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter to Sens. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the top members of the Rules Committee, requesting that they make sexual harassment training mandatory.
Shelby told The Washington Post that “Senator Klobuchar and I are working closely with our colleagues to address the issue in the most effective manner.”
Klobuchar is supportive of making sexual harassment training mandatory.
The House Administration Committee is also reviewing that chamber’s sexual harassment training policies.
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