WASHINGTON ― Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that she knows of two members of Congress who are currently in office ― a Democrat and a Republican ― who have sexually harassed staffers.
Speier has been an outspoken advocate for making it easier for individuals who work in Congress to report sexual misconduct. The current lengthy and convoluted process makes it difficult for accusers to step forward and discourages them from doing so.
Speier recently revealed that when she was a staffer on the Hill, the chief of staff in her office sexually assaulted her.
Since sharing her story, she said she has heard from a number of men and women, both current and former staffers, who have been subject to sexual harassment.
“In fact, there are two members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, right now who serve, who have been subject to review or have not been subject to review, but have engaged in sexual harassment,” Speier said in her testimony before the House Administration Committee, which held a hearing on sexual harassment in Congress Tuesday morning.
Speier did not name the members.
The congresswoman also said she had heard of victims “having their private parts grabbed on the House floor.”
Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), a member on the committee, also said she had heard of a congressman who is currently serving who had exposed himself to a young female staffer. She did not know the identity of the congressman.
“This member asked a staffer to bring them over some materials to their residence. And a young staffer ― it was a young woman ― went there and was greeted with a member in a towel. It was a male, who then invited her in. At that point, he decided to expose himself,” Comstock said. “She left, and then she quit her job.”
“What are we doing here for women right now,” she added, “who are dealing with someone like that?”
In recent weeks, after women have spoken out against film producer Harvey Weinstein and other high-profile men for sexual assault, staffers on Capitol Hill have also been telling their own stories about how toxic the culture is in Congress.
Women who have accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment or assault
Women who have accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment or assault
Paz de la Huerta, who stars on HBO's 'Boardwalk Empire,' claims Harvey Weinstein raped her on two separate occasions in 2010: "I was in no state. I was so terrified of him," she told Vanity Fair. "I did say no, and when he was on top of me, I said, 'I don't want to do this' ... It was disgusting. He's like a pig."
British actress Lysette Anthony has publicly accused Harvey Weinstein of raping her in her home in the late 1980s.
Amber Anderson said Harvey Weinstein 'behaved inappropriately' and bragged about other actresses he had 'helped' in exchange for sexual favors.
Natassia Malthe has accused Weinstein of raping her in a hotel room. On a separate occasion, after she was assured that Weinstein would not come onto her, she was allegedly escorted to Weinstein's hotel room by an assistant. In the room was another woman, who performed oral sex on Weinstein whil he asked Malthe to join.
Lupita Nyong'o wrote a detailed essay for the New York Times recounting multiple incidents with Weinstein, including an evening during which he asked her to give him a nude massage while his family was in the same home.
Marisa Coughlan said that she planned to meet Weinstein for a meeting at his hotel. Instead, he requested a massage.
Heather Graham said Weinstein told her he had an agreement with his wife that allowed him to sleep with whomever he wants. He then asked him to meet her to discuss a film project at his hotel, falsely telling her that her friend would also be present. She declined.
French actress Judith Godreche has accused Weinstein of inappropriately pressing up against her, trying to remove her sweater and asking for a massage.
Lauren Holly said that during a seemingly normal meeting with Weinstein to discuss a project, he began disrobing, got into the shower, and went to the bathroom while continuing to converse with her. He then allegedly asked her for a massage. She fled.
Angie Everhart said that she was sleeping in her own cabin on a yacht when Harvey Weinstein entered, blocked the door and began masturbating. He told her not to tell anyone, but she "told everyone," including many actors and producers. In response, most told her that it was just Harvey being Harvey. In an interview with TMZ, she emphasized that anyone in the industry who knew Harvey at all knew that he regularly did things like what he allegedly did to her.
Kate Beckinsale has accused Harvey Weinstein of coming onto her in his hotel room when she was 17 years old.
Tara Subkoff said that in the 1990s, on the same day that she was offered a major movie role, she met Harvey Weinstein at a party. He allegedly made her sit on his lap while he had an erection. He then told her that if he did not do certain sexual things, she would not get the role that she'd already been offered. She declined. Afterward, she said, her "reputation was ruined by false gossip" and she found it near impossible to book roles.
Minka Kelly said that Harvey Weinstein offered her a lavish lifestyle in exchange for being his extramarital girlfriend. She declined.
Gwyneth Paltrow told the New York Times that Harvey Weinstein asked her for a massage in his hotel suite. After she told then-boyfriend Brad Pitt, Pitt confronted him, leading Weinstein to contact Paltrow and "scream" at her, she said.
Asia Argento has accused Weinstein of raping her in his hotel room when she was 21. She first reluctantly agreed to give him a massage, and then he forcibly performed oral sex on her. During subsequent encounters, she had consensual sexual relations with him due to fear that he would otherwise ruin her career.
Rose McGowan has publicly accused Harvey Weinstein of rape. In October 2016, she tweeted reference to a studio head raping her. In October 2017, in a tweet to Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, McGowan referred to Weinstein by name while repeating her rape accusation. The alleged incident took place in the 1990s and resulted in a financial settlement.
Cara Delevingne has accused Harvey Weinstein of attempting to coerce her into kissing another woman in his hotel room. She had just begun her acting career and believed they were meeting just to finalize talks for a film role.
Angelina Jolie said she had a "bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth" and refused to work with him subsequently.
Jessica Barth has accused Harvey Weinstein of demanding that she get naked and give him a massage.
Emma de Caunes has accused Harvey Weinstein of unexpectedly getting naked and demanding that she lie down as other women had supposedly done before her.
Lauren Sivan has accused Harvey Weinstein of cornering her in a public space and masturbating to completion in front of her.
Mira Sorvino, seen here at a Weinstein Co. event in January 2017, said that after refusing Harvey Weinstein's advances, he dissuaded others in the industry from hiring her.
Ambra Battilana has accused Harvey Weinstein of groping her breasts and reaching under her skirt. She went to the NYPD and then conducted a sting operation, the audio of which was published by the New Yorker. In the audio, Weinstein can be heard attempting to coerce her to enter his hotel room.
Louisette Geiss has accused Harvey Weinstein of luring her to his hotel room after assuring her he wouldn't hit on her. He then disrobed and repeatedly asked her to watch him masturbate, telling her he would produce her screenplay if she did.
Emily Nestor (far right), a former Weinstein Co. employee, has accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment.
Rosanna Arquette has accused Harvey Weinstein of dissuading others from hiring her after she rejected his sexual advances.
Rose McGowan has publicly accused Weinstein of sexual harassment. She has also accused others in the industry of knowing of Weinstein's misconduct and either actively or passively hiding it.
Ashley Judd has publicly accused Harvey Weinstein of asking her for a massage and then asking her to watch him shower.
Florence Darel has accused Harvey Weinstein of coming onto her in a hotel suite in 1996 while his wife was in the room next door.
Zoe Brock (left, in 2004) has accused Weinstein of getting naked and chasing her around a hotel room after she refused to give him a massage.
Katherine Kendall (right, in 2006) has accused Harvey Weinstein of disrobing and asking for a massage in his apartment after a movie screening, telling her that "everybody does it." He then asked her to at least show him her breasts, which she refused.
Romola Garai has accused Harvey Weinstein of making her feel "violated" when he watched her audition wearing only a bathrobe in his hotel room.
Lea Seydoux has accused Harvey Weinstein of forcibly trying to kiss her on the lips in 2012.
Claire Forlani said she "escaped" Harvey Weinstein on five occasions. He allegedly told her about all the actresses he had slept with and how he had in turn established their careers. He also attempted to get her to give him a massage.
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Sexual harassment is an open secret on the Hill, with female staffers warning one another about which members or which male aides to stay away from.
Former Rep. Mary Bono (R-Calif.) recently told The Associated Press that when she served in Congress, a male member approached her on the House floor and told her he had been thinking about what it would be like to see her shower. That man, whom she did not name, is still in office.
Recently, 1,500 former congressional staffers signed a letter to the leadership of the House and Senate urging them to put in place mandatory sexual harassment training and revamp the procedures for reporting such behavior.
Women who have spoken with HuffPost said they had no idea where to go when they experienced harassment, especially when the person harassing them was a high-ranking aide like a chief of staff or a legislative director. How the problem is dealt with varies by office.
Speier put up a graphic during Tuesday’s hearing showing the confusing process that staffers have to go through if they want to report harassment.
A staffer reports the incident to the congressional Office of Compliance and then the victim ― not the accused ― must go through mandatory counseling for 30 days. Speier noted that the entire process seems tilted toward the accused, with the harasser receiving free legal counsel through Congress, while the victim is on his or her own.
“I’ve also heard from mediators who say the congressional process is atypical in that survivors don’t have the option to be in separate rooms as defendant’s counsel. And survivors are often addressed in an aggressive manner,” she said.
Interns and fellows don’t even have access to this process.
Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) said he was worried that an unfortunate consequence of the increased awareness around sexual harassment is that offices would avoid hiring female staffers so as not to get caught up in any scandals.
“I have a female-led staff, and I asked them their opinion,” he said during the hearing. “They were concerned ... that an unintended consequence may be some offices just take a shortcut and not hire women as a way to avoid these issues. Obviously that’s not the right approach.”
Gloria Lett, the counsel for the Office of House Employment Counsel, said people in her office had also raised that concern and that they were working to remind everyone that such discrimination in hiring is illegal.