Female lawmakers allege harassment by colleagues in House

Women in Congress allege they were harassed by fellow lawmakers — a revelation that follows allegations of sexual harassment and assault against prominent male figures in entertainment, business and media.

One current and three former female lawmakers say that they were harrassed or subjected to inappropriate sexual remarks by their male counterparts, at least two of whom continue to serve in the House. 

The alleged victims say they didn't report the years-old incidents, noting that there was no clear way to lodge complaints.

The newly surfaced allegations have prompted U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to announce legislation designed to combat sexual harassment in Congress.

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High-profile men accused of sexual harassment, assault and misconduct
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High-profile men accused of sexual harassment, assault and misconduct

Movie producer Harvey Weinstein is accused of sexually assaulting or harassing dozens of women, including a number of well-known celebrities, over the past several decades.

(REUTERS/Gus Ruelas)

Eleven women have come forward accusing President Donald Trump of unwanted touching or kissing. Trump has called the sexual harassment claims 'fake news.'

(Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Hundreds of women accused longtime Hollywood writer and director James Toback of sexual harassment.

(TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)

Comedian Louis C.K. has been accused of forcing women to watch him masturbate, according to the New York Times.

(Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images)

Director Bret Ratner has been accused of sexual harassment by several women, including actresses Olivia Munn and Natasha Henstridge.

(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Actor Anthony Rapp accused Kevin Spacey of making a sexual advance towards him when he was 14 years old.

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Roger Ailes, the former president of Fox News Channel, was accused of sexually harassing former anchor Gretchen Carlson and several other women from the network.

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Bill Cosby has faced sexual assault allegations from about 60 women, including several women who claim he drugged them.

(Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images)

Mark Schwahn, the former "One Tree Hill" showrunner, was accused of sexual harassment by a large number of the show's cast and crew.

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Roy Moore faced multiple allegations of sexual misconduct with underaged girls.

(REUTERS/Marvin Gentry)

Bill Clinton faced numerous allegations of sexual assault and misconduct while he was president of the United States, with accusers including Juanita Broaddrick, who accused him of rape, Kathleen Willey who said he groped her and Paula Jones who said he exposed himself to her without consent.

(Photo by Dirck Halstead/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

Actor Casey Affleck settled lawsuits out of court wth two women who accused him of sexual harassment.  

(Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Film Independent)

Bill O'Reilly has reportedly made numerous settlements with women who accused him of sexual harassment.

(Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Anthony Weiner, a former Democratic congressman was sentenced to 21 months in prison in September 2017 after pleading guilty to sexting a teenage girl.

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Veteran journalist Mark Halperin has been accused of sexually harassing women while he worked at ABC News.

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Singer R. Kelly is accused of holding women against their will in houses in Illinois and Georgia in a reported 'sex cult.'

(Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

Former Fox Host Eric Bolling was accused of sending unsolicited lewd text messages to female colleagues.

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Director Roman Polanski fled the US after pleading guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. Several other women have also come forward to accuse him of sexual assault.

(REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann)

Chef John Besh stepped down from the company he founded after female employees reported facing sexual harassment there. 

(Photo by Mireya Acierto/Getty Images for NYCWFF)

Photographer Terry Richardson was labeled the 'Harvey Weinstein of Fashion' by the Sunday Times amid widespread accusations of sexual harassment by models.

(Photo by Eugene Gologursky/WireImage)

Singer Kesha accused Lukasz Gottwald aka Dr. Luke of drugging and sexually assaulting her on multiple occasions.

(Photo by Tommaso Boddi/WireImage)

Former champion boxer Mike Tyson was convicted of raping a Miss Black America contestant in 1992. 

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Former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar has been accused of sexual abuse by dozens of his former patients and athletes.

(JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

Music mogul L.A. Reid left his position as Epic Records CEO/Chairman in 2017 amid harassment claims by a female assistant.

(Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

Amazon Studios chief Roy Price resigned following reports that he harassed a producer and ignored an actress' allegation of sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein.

(Photo by Paul Zimmerman/WireImage)

Several women have accused former President George H.W. Bush of groping them during photo ops.

(REUTERS/Adrees Latif)

Chris Savino (right), creator of  'The Loud House' was suspended by Nickelodeon after being accused of making unwanted advances toward multiple women.

(Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for SCAD)

Actor Steven Seagal was accused of sexual misconduct by Inside Edition's chief investigative correspondent Lisa Guerrero.

(Photo by Paul Archuleta/Getty Images,)

Michael Oreskes, senior vice president of news and editorial director of National Public Radio, was accused of inappropriate conduct with two women in 1990s.

(REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad)

Dustin Hoffman was accused of sexually harassing a production assistant when he was 48 and she was a high school senior.

(REUTERS/Stephane Mahe)

Jeremy Piven was accused by actress Ariane Bellamar of groping her on two separate occasions. Piven 'unequivocally' denied the allegations.

(REUTERS/Mike Blake)

Ben Affleck apologized for acting 'inappropriately' towards Hilarie Burton during an appearance on MTV's "Total Request Live" in 2003.

(REUTER/Dylan Martinez

Andy Dick was accused of sexual harassment and misconduct on set, including groping people’s genitals, unwanted kissing/licking and sexual propositions.

(Photo by Earl Gibson III/Getty Images)

Four women, including several that were also fellow Scientologists, have accused actor Danny Masterson of sexual assault, according to HuffPost.

 (Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)

Actor Ed Westwick was accused by actress Kristina Cohen of raping her in his home.

(REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)

David Guillod, producer of 'Atomic Blonde,' is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting several woman.

(Photo by Jennifer Lourie/Getty Images)

Andrew Kreisberg, the showrunner for "Supergirl," was suspended in November 2017 amid numerous sexual harassment allegations by members of his staff.

(Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Actor Tom Sizemore was reportedly told to leave a film set in 2003 after an 11-year-old actress told her mother that he had touched her genitals.

(REUTERS/Phil McCarten)

Steve Jurvetson left his own venture capital firm after allegations of sexual harassment

(Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

A former model accused George Takei of sexually assaulting him 36 years ago.

(Photo by Tara Ziemba/FilmMagic)

Olympic gold medalist Hope Solo accused former FIFA president Sepp Blatter sexually assaulted her at an award ceremony in 2013.

(REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann)

A former writer for 'Mad Men' said the show's creator Matthew Weiner told her that she owed it to him to let him see her naked.

(REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)

Ron Jeremy has been accused of sexually assaulting more than a dozen women and the allegations span more than 30 years.

(Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)

Actor Jeffrey Tambor has been accused of sexual assault by two women from the Amazon series, "Transparent."  

(REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)

Sen. Al Franken is accused of kissing a groping a woman without her consent during a United Service Organizations (USO) tour in 2006.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

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She detailed plans to introduce a new bill that will "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 processs that Congressional staffers have to report sexual harassment," she said Friday.

Rep. Jackie Speier of California, who recently described being sexually assaulted by a male chief of staff while working as a congressional staffer, blames the offense on vague rules around harassment. She is also preparing similar legislation to combat what she called "a breeding gruond for a hostile work environment" in Congress.

Republican Rep. Mary Bono, who served 15 years before being defeated in 2012, said she tolerated increasingly vulgar come-ons by a male colleague before she confronted him. 

Her tipping point came when he told her he'd been thinking about her in the shower.

She told him her comments were demeaning and wrong, and he relented, she said. 

The allegations from the four women say the incidents, ranging from isolated comments to groping on House floor, mostly occurred when they were newcomers to Congress.

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Notable members of 115th Congress
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Notable members of 115th Congress
Freshman members of the incoming U.S. 114th Congress Mia Love (R-UT) (L) and Barbara Comstock (R-VA) huddle together in freezing temperatures after participating in a class photo on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington in a November 18, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/Files
U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) holds the gavel upon being re-elected speaker in the House chamber on the first day of the new session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. January 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) carries her daughter Abigail during a mock swearing in with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden during the opening day of the 115th Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 3, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) takes the stage to speak during the final day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) talks to journalist after attending the Senate Democrat party leadership elections at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, U.S. November 16, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) participates in a mock swearing-in with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden during the opening day of the 115th Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 3, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. Republican presidential candidate and Rand Paul speaks at a campaign rally in the Olmsted Center at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, January 28, 2016. REUTERS/Brian C. Frank/File Photo
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks to reporters during the opening day of the 115th Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 3, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) participates in a mock swearing-in with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden during the opening day of the 115th Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 3, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
U.S. House of Representatives Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks to reporters after she was re-elected to her post on Wednesday, despite a challenge from Rust Belt congressman Tim Ryan who said the party needed new leadership, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 30, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham speaks during a news conference in Riga, Latvia December 28, 2016. Picture taken December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins
Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) speaks at a news conference with a bipartisan group of senators on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., to unveil a compromise proposal on gun control measures, June 21, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks to reporters as Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (2nd R) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (R) stand with him following their meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama on congressional Republicans' effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 4, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)(R) holds a copy of the letter Senate Republicans sent to Iran as he and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) speak after a vote failed to advance debate on a nuclear agreement with Iran on Capitol Hill in Washington September 10, 2015. A Republican-backed measure to derail the Iran nuclear agreement was blocked in the U.S. Senate on Thursday, in a major foreign policy victory for Democratic President Barack Obama. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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The revelations point to the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in the workplace and underscore that no woman — not even one that occupies a senior role in government — is immune. 

Bono said her alleged harasser didn't know how to talk to a woman as an equal. "Instead of being 'how's the weather, how's your career, how's your bill,' it was 'I thought about you while I was in the shower.' So it was a matter of saying to him 'That's not cool, that's just not cool.'"

She said the lawmaker, who still works in Congress, stopped the unwanted advances after she approached him.

A second former lawmaker, former Sen. Barbara Boxer, described a male colleague's sexually suggestive comment in the 1980s. 

He said he wanted to "associate" himself with her remarks — before adding that he also wanted to "associate with the gentle lady."

Boxer said others who heard the lawmaker's comments laughed them off.

"This was an example of the way I think we were thought of, a lot of us. ... It's hostile and embarrasses, and therefore could take away a person's power," she said. 

The incidents shed light on the lack of training or reporting requirements in place to deal with sexual harassment. 

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Women who have accused Donald Trump of inappropriate sexual behavior
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Women who have accused Donald Trump of inappropriate sexual behavior
- JULY 23: Ninni Laaksonen Miss Finland attends Miss Universe Post Pageant VIP Party hosted by Chuck Nabit, Dave Geller, Ed St. John, Greg Barnhill, Freddie Wyatt, Rob Striker at The Standard Downtown on July 23, 2006. (Photo by Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
Karena Virginia, along with attorney Gloria Allred, speaks at a news conference October 20, 2016 in New York. Virginia, a yoga teacher and life coach from New York, came forward for the first time on October 20, 2016 to accuse Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump of engaging in inappropriate sexual conduct which occured in 1998. / AFP / DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
Summer Zervos, a former contestant on the TV show The Apprentice, reacts next to lawyer Gloria Allred (L) while speaking about allegations of sexual misconduct against Donald Trump during a news conference in Los Angeles, California, U.S. October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian
EXCLUSIVE: Woman says Trump reached under her skirt and groped her in early 1990s - The Washington Post https://t.co/aUMLUvDi2z

Donald Trump's ex-wife Ivana Trump

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Jill Harth

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Temple Taggart McDowell

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Natasha Stoynoff

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Miss Washington USA 2013, Cassandra Searles

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Actress Tasha Dixon

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Jessica Drake speaks to reporters about allegations of sexual misconduct against Donald Trump, alongside lawyer Gloria Allred (L) during a news conference in Los Angeles, California, U.S. October 22, 2016. REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 29: Jennifer Hawkins poses at the Myer Marquee on Derby Day at Flemington Racecourse on October 29, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images for the VRC)
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Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif. said she endured similar, repeated harassment. 

"When I was a very new member of Congress in my early 30s, there was a more senior member who outright propositioned me, who was married, and despite trying to laugh it off and brush it aside, it would repeat. And I would avoid that member," she said. 

She declined to name the lawmaker, saying, "I just don't think it would be helpful."

"The problem is, as a member there's no HR department you can go to, there's nobody you can turn to. Ultimately, they're employed by their constituents," she said.

Sanchez said a different male colleague touched her inappropriately on the House floor, trying to brush it off as an accident. That lawmaker no longer works in Congress.

Former Rep. Hilda Solis, now a Los Angeles County supervisor, is among those who recalls harassment in Congress.

"I don't think I'm the only one. What I tried to do was ignore it, turn away, walk away. Obviously it's offensive. Are you supposed to be flattered? No, we're adults. Not appropriate," she said, adding that the incidents were "humiliating."

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