One current and three former female lawmakers say they were sexually harassed by their fellow members of Congress, The Associated Press reports. The incidents in question occurred years or decades ago and come as more men and women are telling their stories of being sexually harassed or assaulted. The lawmakers did not report these incidents at the time and declined to name their perpetrators to AP, but at least two of the men accused continue to serve in the House, the women said.
Recently retired California Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) recounted to AP how during a hearing in the 1980s, a fellow congressman drew laughter from their colleagues when he said he wanted to "associate" with her remarks, as well as "associate himself with the gentle lady." Boxer said that the committee chairman seconded the suggestive quip, which played on congressional jargon to imbue a sexual meaning, and that she later asked for the exchange to be stricken from the record.
Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) says that she was inappropriately touched on the House floor by a former congressman, who she told AP tried to make the contact look unintentional. She also said that in the early 2000s, as a new member of Congress in her early 30s, she was propositioned by a married male colleague who remains in office.
Sanchez said she did not think it would be helpful to name the lawmaker in question. "The problem is, as a member there's no HR department you can go to, there's nobody you can turn to," she said. "Ultimately they're employed by their constituents."
The Washington Post and Politico recently published reports on sexual harassment that detail the difficulty of reporting such conduct when it occurs in Congress. Read more testimonies of sexual harassment in Congress at AP.