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Speier Shares Own Sex Harassment Story, Calls Congress 'Breeding Ground'

28 October 2017

She said she felt "humiliation and anger".

Speier told Politico she will introduce legislation next week calling for an overhaul of the Office of Compliance, where Capitol Hill staffers are expected to file harassment complaints. Few female lawmakers have spoken out about the possible sexual harassment they might have endured while working in the government, but one congresswoman from California is setting out to change that.

The California Democrat says she hopes her story will help "give cover" to current or former staffers on Capitol Hill who too, were harassed to come forward and tell their stories.

In the wake of the sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein and inspired by the women speaking up against sexual harassment on social media, Speier is encouraging others in Congress to share their stories with #MeTooCongress. "There is nothing to fear in telling the truth, and it's time to throw back the curtain on repulsive behavior that until now, has thrived in the dark without consequences".

The current system is "constructed to protect the institution - and to impede the victim from getting justice", Speier told Politico.

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Currently, if a congressional staffer wants to file a formal complaint - they must first go through a lengthy, multi-tiered process that could drag out over months before an official complaint can even be formally lodged. Sexual harassment training also is not a requirement for working in Congress - it's left to individual offices.

"Like so many of you, I have a "Me Too" story to share". Under a law passed in 1995, an employee who reports harassment has to undergo 30 days of counseling followed by another 15 days to begin a process of mediation with his or her employer.

In the hours since Speier has made her allegations public, an aide to the congresswoman says her office has been flooded by telephone calls and email messages.

She, along with Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Michigan), is introducing legislation next week aimed at reforming how Congress addresses sexual harassment and assault allegations. "She has always said that as a woman in a position of power, if she doesn't speak up for women who don't have a voice, who's going to?"

Speier Shares Own Sex Harassment Story, Calls Congress 'Breeding Ground'