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Sen. McCaskill says intern dress proposal is 'victim-blaming'

Sen. Claire McCaskill took state lawmakers to task for weighing an intern dress code after a series of sexual assault allegations rocked Missouri's legislature.

Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill took state lawmakers to task for weighing an intern dress code following a series of sexual assault allegations that rocked the state's legislature this summer.

"Such a recommendation reeks of a desire to avoid holding fully accountable those who would prey upon young women and men seeking to begin honorable careers in public service," McCaskill wrote state Reps. Bill Kidd and Nick King in a letter.

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The two lawmakers championed a "conservative" dress code aimed at helping curb temptation. The idea has since been nixed by legislative leadership.

In May, Missouri House Speaker John Diehl announced he was resigning from the legislature after admitting that he exchanged text messages of a sexually charged nature with a college student serving as a statehouse intern.

"I made a mistake," Diehl said at the time. "It's one that calls into question my ability to lead."

Roughly two months later, Missouri Sen. Paul LeVota announced he was resigning after two female interns accused him of sexual harassment.

In her book, "Plenty Ladylike," McCaskill describes fending off the unwanted sexual attention of men when she was an intern in Missouri's statehouse.

McCaskill said she witnessed she often saw sexual assault victims blamed for crimes against them when she was a courtroom prosecutor of sex crimes, and later as a Jackson County prosecutor.

"I saw young women held responsible for the harm done to them by others. I even saw a few law enforcement officials sometimes unwilling to pursue justice because of the victim's behavior prior to the crime. 'She was asking for it,' is a sentence I have longed to see stripped for our cultural vocabulary," wrote McCaskill who as a senator has championed victims' rights legislation. "Victim-blaming obscures justice, and undermines a process that should be based solely on factual evidence, not on a desire to skirt accountability."

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