In the wake of sexual misconduct allegations on Capitol Hill, the House of Representatives is preparing to vote on a bill that would require lawmakers to undergo sexual harassment training. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier, and it mirrors a bill that the Senate passed earlier in November. If you'd like to call your representatives to support sexual harassment training for lawmakers, here's the most effective way to do it.
Finding your representatives' contact information is easy. Just go to this website, punch in your address, and you'll be presented with all of the information you could hope for. That website, Call Your Rep, is helpful because it provides not only your representatives' contact information in Washington D.C., but also the phone numbers and addresses of their local offices.
That second part is important. Most congressional representatives have both a D.C. office and, depending on their constituency, one or multiple offices in the districts or states that they represent. Writing shortly after the 2016 election, a former staffer for Sen. Barbara Boxer said that those local branches often devote much more time to fielding constituent calls than the D.C. offices do. If you'd to make your feelings known on the sexual harassment bill — or really, any pending legislative matter — don't forget to call your representatives' local branches as well as their D.C. offices.
Speier, who recently released a #MeToo video detailing her own experiences with sexual harassment on Capitol Hill, has introduced this same bill for years without success. However, the recent avalanche of sexual abuse allegations that have been made against powerful public figures has created new momentum for proponents of stricter sexual harassment policies in Congress.
Earlier in the month, over 1,300 former Congressional staffers signed a letter demanding that the Senate and House reform and strengthen their internal procedures for dealing with sexual abuse allegations in Capitol Hill. Shortly thereafter, the Senate unanimously passed a measure to impose mandatory sexual harassment training for lawmakers and aides alike; previously, such training was merely optional.
“Sexual and workplace harassment is a widespread problem that affects too many women and men in too many places, professions, and industries," Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who co-sponsored the legislation, said in a statement. "Everyone deserves to feel safe and comfortable at work, and the passage of this official Senate policy is an important measure to ensure that’s the case in these halls.”
Under the legislation proposed in the House, lawmakers and aides would have to complete sexual harassment training within the first 90 days of each session of Congress (or, alternatively, within 90 days of becoming an employee of the House). Additionally, every member of Congress would be required to display a poster, created by the Office of Compliance, outlining employees' rights and the procedures for reporting allegations of sexual harassment or assault. Although there's no assurance that the bill will pass, the prospects look good, as it has the support of both Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Speier cautions, however, that requiring sexual harassment training is merely the first step of many that need to be taken. On Sunday, she told ABC that Congress also needs to overhaul the process by which its sexual harassment and assault allegations are addressed. Currently, anybody who makes such allegations must undergo months of mediation and counseling — which they're required to keep confidential — before they're allowed to file an official complaint.
“I think it was a system set up in 1995 to protect the harasser,” Speier said on This Week. “This is not a victim-friendly process. And one victim who I spoke with said, ‘You know, the process was almost worse than the harassment.’”