20 More Representatives May Be Named in Harassment Scandals
As the national outcry over sexual harassment and assault by men in positions of power continues, more scandals involving members of Congress are reportedly about to be revealed. According to several reports, CNN and The Washington Post are working on multiple stories that will name at least 20—and possibly up to 40—lawmakers with sexual assault allegations against them.
The reports come on the heels of three congressional resignations in less than a week: Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., announced last Tuesday his retirement after 53 years in public service, amid allegations of inappropriate behavior that he denied; Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., accused by several women of sexual misconduct, resigned Thursday; and Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., resigned Friday after learning that the House Ethics Committee is reviewing accounts of his potentially inappropriate behavior toward female members of his staff. Franks admitted that he may have made former staffers “uncomfortable” by asking if they would bear his child.
Another Republican, Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, faces an investigation after evidence surfaced of an $84,000 taxpayer-funded settlement with a former aide, Lauren Greene, who claimed he had sexually harassed her.
Currently, the only avenue for members of Congress or their staffers to report claims of sexual harassment is through the Office of Compliance, which requires claimants to go through 30 days of counseling, followed by 15 days of mediation—a system that has been criticized for protecting the person whom the complaint is filed against at expense of the alleged victim.
Vanity Fair adds:
Given that Congress’s Office of Compliance—the only recourse staffers have to report abuse—is all but explicitly designed to protect lawmakers, a reckoning over sexual harassment on Capitol Hill is long overdue. Democrats, unlike Republicans, are mostly cheering the sea change, even as some wonder whether Franken’s resignation may have set a harsh new precedent. “This does establish a new standard for this body,” Senator Tim Kaine told reporters on Thursday. “And that standard is: behavior before you were elected is fair game for determining whether you should be here.”
More congressional staffers are pushing for sexual harassment training than ever. Susan Tsui Grundmann, executive director of the Office of Compliance, told the House Administration Committee during a hearing last week on preventing sexual harassment in the congressional workplace that “over the last six weeks, we have seen a triple-digit percentage increase in the number of requests for in-person sexual harassment prevention training.”
USA Today continues:
… in November alone, more than 1,000 congressional employees visited the office’s website to find information about how to report sexual harassment, a three-fold increase in traffic.
“And I am happy to report that posters notifying employees of their rights are flying off our shelves, with reorders arriving late last week,” she said.
“These numbers tell us something,” Grundmann added. “They mean that people are finally taking seriously the problem about which we have been sounding the alarm … for years.”
Mandatory sexual harassment prevention training was adopted by both the House and Senate in November, which could be a factor in the increases in visits to the website. Over 1,200 congressional staffers signed a petition last month demanding an overhaul of how sexual harassment claims are handled.