When the House voted on the recent omnibus spending bill, lawmakers included language to support survivors of sexual harassment and discrimination. But when it got to the House, Mitch McConnell said, “never mind,” and removed provisions that would have finally brought accountability and transparency to Congress’ sexual harassment reporting process.
As Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said, “It begs the question: Who are they trying to protect?”
We know who. Every woman knows who. We know how men who harass women are protected and the sexual harassers are enabled. The indifference of Senator McConnell echoes the mistreatment and neglect of hundreds of women who have been abused in spaces of power.
“Sexual coercion knows no party lines,” states Toni Van Pelt, President of the National Organization for Women, “in order to end sexual harassment and assault in all workplaces, we must begin with our leaders. It is time for our representatives on the hill to be a part of solution instead of perpetuating the problem.”
It’s time for a change. NOW supports the initiative taken by all 22 female Senators, Republicans and Democrats alike, to amend the 23-year old law that governs employment complaints in Congress. The current Congressional Accountability Act places an unfair burden on survivors requiring that they undergo counseling, mediation and a month-long “cooling off” period before filing suit against their harassers. Policies like these protect predators and leave survivors vulnerable to further abuse. The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) reports that 75% of survivors experience retaliation when they report their abuse.
The House of Representatives did the right thing in taking the necessary steps to change the culture of sexual harassment on Capitol Hill. The Senate needs to step up as well. Harassers must be held accountable for their actions, survivors deserve justice, and our nation’s leaders must begin to vote with the moral integrity they claim to hold dear. Enough is Enough.