One current and three former lawmakers have responded to U.S Representative Jackie Speier’s call to speak out about sexual assault in congress, telling The Associated Press that they were sexually harassed by their fellow congressman.
“This is about power,” said former California Senator Barbara Boxer, recalling an incident in which she was sexually harassed in front of a congressional committee in the 1980s. She said a male colleague told a committee she was part of that he wanted to associate himself not only with her remarks, but also “with the gentle lady” herself. Her fellow members of Congress laughed, Boxer recalled, and the committee chairman seconded the man’s opinion.
“That was an example of the way I think we were thought of, a lot of us,” she said. “It’s hostile and embarrasses, and therefore could take away a person’s power.”
Former Republican Representative Mary Bono, who served in the House for 15 years, revealed that she had endured increasingly sexual comments from a fellow lawmaker, culminating in the congressman telling her on the House floor that he’d been fantasizing about her in the shower. Representative Linda Sanchez also recalled being repeatedly propositioned by a more senior member of Congress shortly after she was first elected. Another congressman, she said, touched her inappropriately on the House floor. All the congresswomen who spoke to The Associated Press declined to name their harassers — according to Sanchez, doing so was unlikely to “be helpful.”
“The problem is, as a member, there’s no H.R. department you can go to, there’s nobody you can turn to,” she explained. “Ultimately they’re employed by their constituents.”
Read the full story at The Associated Press.