Former aides alleging sexual harassment on Capitol Hill urge congressional action

Former aides alleging sexual harassment on Capitol Hill urge congressional action
© Greg Nash

Former congressional aides alleging sexual assault and harassment during their time on Capitol Hill are urging Congress to take action on the issue "right now."

Seven women who have spoken out about their experiences with sexual abuse in Congress signed an open letter on Thursday imploring Congress to move forward with "strong" legislation that would crack down on harassment and discrimination within congressional offices.

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It has been seven months since the House passed a reform bill addressing sexual harassment on Capitol Hill and four months since the Senate passed its own version. 

"We write to remind you, and every member of the 115th Congress, not only of the pain we suffered, but also of the shame and humiliation that current staffers must bear when they too are victimized by harmful and discriminatory actions from a member of Congress, a supervisor, or a colleague," the women wrote.

"And for staffers courageous enough to speak out, this pain is compounded by having to navigate an antiquated, unfair, and traumatizing dispute resolution system that Congress currently uses to address harassment and discrimination," the letter continues.

Congress has not passed a bill addressing the issue since the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995. 

Under the current system, staffers must go through months of mediation and counseling before they can formally file a complaint.    

Lauren Greene, a woman whose harassment claim against ex-Rep. Blake FarentholdRandolph (Blake) Blake FarentholdFemale Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations Lawmaker seeks to ban ex-members from lobbying until sexual harassment settlements repaid Former Texas lawmaker Blake Farenthold resigns from lobbying job MORE (R-Texas) prompted his resignation, signed the open letter, as did Anna Kain, who filed a harassment allegation against a top aide in Rep. Elizabeth EstyElizabeth Henderson EstyConnecticut elects first black congresswoman Former aides alleging sexual harassment on Capitol Hill urge congressional action Rising Dem star in Connecticut says people like me ‘deserve a seat at the table’ in Congress MORE's (D-Conn.) office, Politico reported. Etsy has since said she mishandled Klain's claim. 

"We implore you, on behalf of ourselves and so many others who are unable to come forward, to complete the work already started and pass the strongest bill possible that will meaningfully reform the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995," the women wrote.

"Such reforms would include holding members truly accountable — and without loopholes — for the harassment and discrimination they personally commit; and addressing the inherent power imbalance in congressional offices by, for example, ensuring legal assistance to individuals who allege discrimination and allowing them to opt in, rather than opt out, of meditation," they wrote.

Their letter comes as Christine Blasey Ford publicly alleges that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the 1980s.

The letter's other signatories include Katherine Cichy, Rebecca Weir, Ally Coll Steele, Winsome Packer and Melanie Sloan, all of whom have alleged they were sexually harassed during their time working in congressional offices.

"We know that many, many stories remain untold," the women wrote. "It is not their burden to bring about change. It is yours. You were elected to lead."

The letter is addressed to the leaders of the House and Senate.