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15 November 2017, 12:39 | Darnell Patrick
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House Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday that the chamber would immediately begin mandatory training on sexual harassment and anti-discrimination efforts after two female members accused two sitting congressmen of impropriety and misconduct. With few exceptions, every person said they have personally experienced sexual harassment on the Hill or know of others who have.
'That kind of situation, what are we doing here for women, right now, who are dealing with someone like that?' Comstock asked.
Speier said, "In fact, there are two members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, right now, who serve, who have been subject to review, or [have not] been subject to review, but have engaged in sexual harassment".
Comstock - who worked on Capitol Hill as a staffer early in her career and served in the Virginia House of Delegates before being elected to represent Northern Virginia's 10th District past year - said Congress needs more training and stronger safeguards in place to ensure women don't have to give up their careers to escape sexually aggressive behavior.
"I strongly encourage you to complete sexual harassment training and to mandate the training for your staff".
As for Moore, he has denied the allegations against him, but his support among mainstream Republicans has plummeted one month before the December 12 special election. The Senate just last week passed a resolution making sexual harassment training mandatory, not just for staffers and interns, but also for senators.
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Between 1997 and 2014, a little known Congressional fund paid out $15.2 million to 235 people who made sexual harassment claims in Congress. However, Gloria Lett, counsel at the Office of House Employment, who testified at Tuesday's hearing, said that she believed in the process and thought it worked "very effectively".
Comstock did not name the member of Congress, whose name wasn't disclosed to her.
Speier added that staff members on Capitol Hill deserve to "be able to work in a hostile free work environment".
Under the current system, staffers must undergo months of counseling and mediation with the employing office before they can formally file a complaint.
Barbara Childs Wallace, the chair of the Office of Compliance's board of directors, called the mandatory training that lawmakers are calling for a necessary first step, but said more changes are needed to improve the culture on Capitol Hill. "But mandatory training is one very important component of trying to stop this".
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