Washington, DC – As victims of sexual harassment in Congress come forward to tell their stories in today’s AP report, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that she will introduce comprehensive legislation to combat sexual harassment in Congressional offices. This bill would create more transparency in Congressional offices and give sexual harassment victims the resources and protections they need to report incidents.
“Congress should never be above the law or play by their own set of rules. The current process has little accountability and even less sensitivity to victims of sexual harassment,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “What we are seeing from the powerful #MeToo campaign is that sexual assault and sexual harassment are pervasive across our entire society. What you see time and again in institutions all around the country is a culture where power and fear keep sexual assault and sexual harassment in the shadows. Congress is no different. The women and men coming forward are an inspiration because they are changing our society in a way that is making it unacceptable for people to turn a blind eye to sexual violence. They are showing we can build a more just society for ourselves, our families and future generations by shining a light on injustice and saying we will not accept it anymore. I will be introducing legislation in the Senate to reform the current inadequate process by creating mandatory annual training for Members and staff, requiring climate surveys to show the true scope of this problem, giving interns the access to the same resources and protections as full-time staff, ending forced mediation, and overhauling the process that Congressional staffers have to report sexual harassment. 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’s legislation would do the following:
- Modernize and streamline the process for sexual harassment victims to report within the Office of Compliance
- Create a designated person within the Office of Compliance to serve as a confidential advisor for victims of harassment
- Require mandatory annual sexual harassment training for both Members and staff
- Remove the current requirement that victims go through mediation before filing a complaint against an assailant
- Require a climate survey to give a comprehensive analysis of the scope of this problem in Congress
- Give interns access to the same resources as full-time staff
- Require that each office post notices that detail the rights and protections of employees
Gillibrand has been a leading voice in the Senate in combatting sexual assault, and her bills to address the scourge of sexual assault on college campuses and in the military have broad, bipartisan support.