Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) wants the names of lawmakers accused of sexual misconduct.
“Name them,” Graham told reporters on Wednesday. “Just get it out. Lay it out. Change the rules so people can come to work without being harassed. Those who do these things need to be held accountable.”
On Thursday, journalist Leeann Tweeden accused Senator Al Franken (D-MN) of fondling her while she was asleep and shoving his tongue down her throat.
In recent days, a number of female lawmakers have recounted experiences of being sexually harassed on Capitol Hill. Besides Franken, though, the names of those responsible have not been made known.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) said on Tuesday at a House Committee on Administration hearing on harassment policies that two current members of Congress, a Republican and a Democrat, have engaged in sexual harassment.
She said she did not want to name them because it could do harm to the victims.
Speier said instances of sexual harassment range from “propositions such as, ‘Are you going to be a good girl?’ to perpetrators exposing their genitals, to victims having their private parts grabbed on the House floor.”
Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA), a member of the committee, also shared a story she said she had been told recently about an encounter one unidentified female staffer had with her boss, a current member of Congress.
Comstock said the woman had been asked to drop off materials at his house, and he answered the door in a bath towel and proceeded to expose himself. Comstock said she did not know his identity but said that the woman had quit her job as a result.
“We need to know more examples of what’s actually happening to make it easier for the victims to come forward,” Comstock said. “It’s important to name names.”
Even if a woman decides to report the sexual harassment, it can be an arduous process.
A staffer from either chamber can file a complaint with the Office of Compliance to begin a 30-day legal counseling period followed by mandatory 30-day mediation and 30-day “cooling off” periods. At that time the victim can file a case in federal court, which would take about 700 days for a resolution or open an administrative case that could take another 180 days.
If the accused is a member of Congress, he or she is represented by lawyers in the Office of House Employment Counsel or the Senate’s Chief Counsel for Employment. And if there’s a settlement in favor of the victim, the taxpayers pay, not the individual member.