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Rep. wants mandatory sexual harassment trainings for House

Rep. Jackie Speier wants to make sure no lawmaker can plead ignorance over what is sexual harassment. "This is the House of Representatives, not a frat house."
Rep. Jackie Speier
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) (C) talks with military sexual assault survivors Victoria Sanders (L), and Lisa Wilken (R) during a House Veteran Affairs Subcomittee on July 19, 2013 in Washington, DC.

After a freshman Republican House member got caught on video kissing an aide, one House Democrat wants to make sure no lawmaker can plead ignorance over what constitutes sexual harassment.

Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, is preparing legislation that would require House members and all House employees to take a yearly sexual harassment training program.

“This is the House of Representatives, not a frat house,” Speier said in a statement. “It is time for all of us to get trained -- elected officials and their staffs -- to recognize what sexual harassment is, and how to prevent it, and what to do if it happens.”

While inappropriate, sometimes illegal behavior by lawmakers is hardly new, Speier said in her statement that she was spurred to act by two events. A video leaked Monday of married Louisiana rep. Vance McAllister embracing a woman on his staff. While the woman has since been fired, McAllister, who ran as a conservative, “values” Republican, has said he would not resign.

This week was also the end of former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner’s house arrest for felony false imprisonment and misdemeanor battery. More than a dozen women have come forward with allegations of harassment and assault that they did not report during his 10-term tenure in the House.

“The fact none of the victims ever reported shows that we have a problem here in the House,” Speier said.

Speier has made preventing sexual harassment and assault a priority during her time in the House. She has sponsored legislation aimed at combating rape in the military and has led an effort to push the Department of Education to be more transparent about its investigations into how colleges handle sexual assault.

While sexual harassment trainings are common in the private sector and are already mandatory for executive branch agencies, there are no such requirements for the legislative body that voted to impeach Bill Clinton for lying about a relationship with an intern.

Speier is also looking into expanding training requirements to other federal agencies, according to Politico.

Speaking on the House floor on Tuesday about her proposal, Speier said, “it is time for us to clean up our act.”