After the news of Harvey Weinstein's alleged abuse , Twitter saw the rise of #metoo. Women took to the social platform to share their stories of sexual harassment and assault. Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier described an incident that allegedly took place when she was a young congressional staffer. In the video that she posted on her YouTube channel, she recalls an alleged incident that occurred with a chief of staff, thirty years older than her.
She alleged that the chief of staff "held my face, kissed me, stuck his tongue in my mouth," in her YouTube video. She included the hashtag #metooCongress in the video. Speier says that Capitol Hill is a "breeding ground" for sexual harassment and assault. She recalled feeling humiliated and angry over the incident. In an interview with CNN , she stated why she decided to come out with the account nearly 40 years later. "The floodgates are open, we have reached a tipping point," said Speier.
She is introducing two new pieces of legislation in the House of Representatives that may rectify the flaws of the current reporting system for sexual misconduct. Her first piece of legislation requires all members and their staff to attend mandatory annual sexual harassment training. The legislation provides the option for individual offices to voluntarily have their staff watch a sexual harassment training video, provided by the Office of Compliance. Although, this may be a loophole in the legislation, as offices may “watch” the video but not truly learn the way they would if they had attended the training.
Her second measure is an attempt to reform the process of filing a complaint with the Office of Compliance. The agency has been handling sexual harassment claims on Capitol Hill since the Congressional Accountability act of 1995. The current protocol in place, Speier’s says is “designed to protect the institution and the members,” rather than the accusers.
If someone reports a sexual harassment claim, they first engage in 30 days of counseling with a legal counselor in the OOC. Then after the 30 days, they have 15 days to agree to go into mediation with a representative from the office of the accused. That mediation lasts at least 30 days. Once the mediation is finished, the accused is required to wait 30 days, but no longer than 90 days. Then the accuser can officially file a formal complaint. This process could deter anyone from filing a complaint. As the process if not only tiresome but will take a significant amount of time away from their work.
This is a specific example of issues reporting sexual misconduct in the House of Representatives. But, this occurs every day in an office across the country where there are different protocols that one must go through to file a complaint. The notion that an accuser must go through mediation with the accused before they have the RIGHT to file a complaint is absurd. That is a traumatizing experience that is one of many reasons sexual harassment and assault go unreported in the United States.
There is the notion and mentality to protect the person being accused, without regarding how the accusers feel. That person may be a victim of harassment or assault, but it is “not proven”. Thus, the person is treating as if they are lying, even after it is proven true. The conversation keeps receiving momentum, but we need to take action. This cannot keep being pushed under the rug because it is an uncomfortable conversation. It is a necessary conversation we all have to have with one another. Otherwise, where is the change? Is this the environment we want our children growing up in?
Representative Jackie Speier's Video: