Every Woman in the Senate Signed This Letter to Mitch McConnell
“Everyone deserves to work in an environment free from harassment and discrimination,” they wrote.
The women of Capitol Hill have had enough.
What started with a sexual assault scandal in Hollywood has rapidly evolved into the global #MeToo movement, as women around the world and across industries have come forward with stories of abuse and a call to lawmakers to take action.
But congress is having trouble addressing sexual harassment even within itself.
On Wednesday, all 22 female senators expressed their “deep disappointment” over the Senate’s failure to pass measures to improve Congress’s process for handling sexual harassment claims.
In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles Schumer — penned by Senators Amy Klobuchar, Patty Murray, and Kirsten Gillibrand — the women urged the Senate to “update and strengthen the procedures available to survivors of sexual harassment and discrimination in congressional workplaces.”
Currently, employees of the legislative branch are required to attend a month of counseling, participate in mediation, and spend 30 days “cooling off,” before they can file a workplace sexual harassment complaint. This process is outlined by the Congressional Accountability Act (CAA), passed 23 years ago.
Critics of the legislation argue that tiresome process stacks the cards against victims of sexual harassment, discourages people from reporting abuse, and allows sexual misconduct to persist in congress.
“Four out of 10 women congressional staffers believe that sexual harassment is a problem on Capitol Hill,” the senators wrote, referring to survey results. “And one out of six women in the same survey responded that they have been the survivors of sexual harassment.”
“The time has come to rewrite the CAA to provide a more equitable process that supports survivors of harassment and discrimination,” the letter said.
Last month, the House of Representatives passed multiple bills aimed at reducing the incidence of sexual harassment on the hill and restoring power to victims. The bills included one which amended the CAA, lowering the barriers to reporting sexual harassment incidents and giving greater protections to victims, the Washington Post reported.
Instead of following suit, the Senate passed a spending bill last week after removing measures similar to those the House had passed.
“Everyone deserves to work in an environment free from harassment and discrimination,” the letter said. “The Senate's inaction stands in stark contrast to the bipartisan effort in the House of Representatives that led to the passage of bipartisan CAA reform legislation in February.”
The female politicians still hope to reform the sexual harassment complaint process and they’re not without support from some of their male counterparts.
“We strongly agree that the Senate should quickly take up legislation to combat sexual harassment on Capitol Hill,” Senator Schumer’s office told Vox in a statement.
Global Citizen campaigns in support of gender equality and women’s rights. You can take action here to call on lawmakers to amend legislation to protect women and girls against sexual violence.