Four female lawmakers — three former and one current — alleged they have been sexually harassed by male colleagues during their time in Congress, including one who told former Rep. Mary Bono, R-Calif., that he thought about her while he was in the shower, according to a report.
Bono, along with former Rep. Hilda Solis, D-Calif., former Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and current Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., shared their experiences of sexual harassment with the Associated Press.
None of the women identified the male lawmakers they accused of misconduct, but at least two of them are still serving in the House.
Boxer, who retired last year, said a male lawmaker made a “sexually suggestive comment” about her during a hearing in the 1980s. According to the Associated Press, the colleague first said he wanted to “associate” himself with Boxer’s remarks, and then said he also wanted to “associate with the gentlelady.”
“That was an example of the way I think we were thought of, a lot of us. … It’s hostile and embarrasses, and therefore could take away a person’s power,” she said.
Bono, who served in Congress for 15 years before she lost in 2012, said a male colleague made recurring harassing comments to her. The former congresswoman eventually confronted the lawmaker, who continues to serve in Congress, on the House floor.
“Instead of being ‘how’s the weather, how’s your career, how’s your bill,’ it was ‘I thought about you while I was in the shower.’ So it was a matter of saying to him ‘That’s not cool, that’s just not cool,’” she told the Associated Press.
Solis, who left Congress in 2009 when she was picked as former President Barack Obama’s secretary of labor, said a male lawmaker made repeated harassing advances toward her. She didn’t provide additional details about the overtures.
Sanchez, who is still serving in Congress, also recalled an instance in which an unnamed male colleague, who is also still in Congress, “propositioned” her.
“When I was a very new member of Congress in my early 30s, there was a more senior member who outright propositioned me, who was married, and despite trying to laugh it off and brush it aside, it would repeat,” Sanchez, who has served in the House since 2003, told the Associated Press. “And I would avoid that member.”
Sanchez also said a different male lawmaker who is no longer in Congress “repeatedly ogled” her and touched her inappropriately on the House floor. The colleague, she said, attempted to make the incident seem like it was an accident.
The revelations from the four lawmakers come in the wake of sexual harassment and assault allegations made against film producer Harvey Weinstein.
In an effort to raise awareness about sexual harassment that takes place on Capitol Hill, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., launched a campaign last week titled #MeTooCongress that encourages former and current congressional staffers to share their experiences.
In a video highlighting the initiative, Speier shared her own experience with sexual harassment while working as a staffer, and said her chief of staff once held her face, kissed her, and “stuck his tongue in my mouth.”
“I know what it’s like to keep these things hidden deep down inside. I know what it’s like to lie awake at night wondering if I was the one who had done something wrong. I know what it’s like years later to remember that rush of humiliation and anger,” Speier said. “You know what? Many of us in Congress know what it’s like because Congress has been a breeding ground for a hostile work environment for far too long.”