Washington, D.C. – The House may be divided on a number of issues, but there is one issue they can actually agree on; expanding sexual harassment training for all members and their staff.
California Rep. Jackie Speier introduced the measure as a part of a legislative branch spending and the measure passed almost unanimously with the 402-14 voice vote, CNN reported. The legislation allocates $500,000 for the measure and Speier would like it to become mandatory.
House members voted early Thursday to appropriate $500,000 to expand sexual harassment training.
On the floor of the House, Rep. Speier said “The American people expect us to conduct ourselves in a manner befitting the responsibilities and duties that we hold as members of Congress–not like we are freshman at a frat house.”
Rep. Speier introduced the legislation weeks after freshman Representative Vance McAllister (R.-LA) was caught on video embracing and kissing one of his aides despite the fact he is a married man. Rep. McAllister initially refused to resign and instead fired the aide he was seen kissing. At first, House members were quick to rush to McAllister’s defense, but earlier this week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor asked him to step down. McAllister however refused saying his resignation was not in the best interests of his constituents.
Speier’s office said her legislation was not inspired about the controversy surrounding Rep. McAllister but she did refer to the sexual harassment scandal involving for San Diego Mayor Bob Filner who served ten terms in the House.
“When Mr. Filner was ranking member on the Veterans Affairs Committee in the House, he allegedly sexually harassed several female members of the Armed Forces who were rape survivors,” Speier said.
She also and alluded to recent incidents where teenage pages were being sexted while on the House floor, and staff members being “groped” and touched inappropriately, according to CNN.
“It’s unacceptable that others have groped and inappropriately touched their staff members. This behavior is illegal and unacceptable in the private sector, and it is illegal and unacceptable here.”
Sexual harassment training is mandatory for the executive branch, however there is currently no such requirement for the legislative branches. The training is provided by the Office of Compliance but as CNN pointed out, training is typically only requested when an incident occurs. Complaints of sexual harassment can be addressed with the Office of Compliance, but many Congressional aides are unaware of its existence, Politico reported.
Speier requires that all of her staff members go through mandatory sexual harassment training and would like all House members to do the same. She said she learned a great deal about sexual harassment through training.
Speier has also joined other lawmakers in their recent push to curtail sexual harassment and assault in the military.
Training alone will not prevent all sexual harassment which is often allowed to persist because the victims fear retaliation if they speak up. Some victims find it easier to take a stand when they have the representation of a sexual harassment attorney to guide them through process of filing a formal complaint.