How Jackie Speier Used Her Own Experience To Shine The Spotlight On Sexual Harassment

By Casey Tolan
The Mercury News

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) After being a victim of sexual harassment back in 1973, U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier is leading the charge more than 40 years later for change on Capitol Hill. In the last few weeks, she has introduced legislation to streamline harassment reporting procedures, testified at hearings on the topic and shed light on big settlements paid out.

SAN JOSE, Calif.

U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier was a 23-year-old congressional staffer excited about her new job on Capitol Hill when her chief of staff got her alone in a room. Her 50-year-old boss grabbed her face and stuck his tongue down her throat.

At the time, in 1973, there were no official channels to report what had happened, and even the term “sexual harassment” hadn’t entered the vernacular. “There was nothing to do to try and address that behavior,” Speier said in an interview Wednesday. “There was nowhere I could go.”

More than 40 years later, Speier, D-Calif., is leading the charge to make sure that’s not the case for future young staffers facing predatory behavior in Congress. In the last few weeks, she has introduced legislation to streamline harassment reporting procedures, testified at hearings on the topic and shed light on big settlements paid out.
“I’m embarrassed to say it, but I think Congress has been an enabler of sexual harassers for a long time,” said Speier.

As a wave after wave of sexual harassment revelations hit Hollywood, Congress and the media this fall, Speier helped turn the spotlight on Capitol Hill when she went public with her own harassment story for the first time last month.

Speaking into the camera in a YouTube video, she urged other congressional staffers to come forward with their experiences of harassment, blasting the “breeding ground for a hostile work environment” that she said Congress had become.

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