Lawmakers search for ways to end harassment on Capitol Hill

Published: Dec. 7, 2017 at 5:25 PM EST
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The anti-sexual harassment movement is hitting Capitol Hill and some lawmakers are taking a stand.

"In so many ways elected officials are treated differently," Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI-2) said.

Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard wants her colleagues to be held to a higher standard when it comes to cases of sexual harassment.

Reports show Congress has spent more than $17 million taxpayer dollars on sexual harassment settlements since the 1990s.

She's introducing a bill to find out which lawmakers made those claims. She said she wants them to front the bill, not the taxpayers.

"Taxpayers have a right to this transparency and accountability," she added.

This week, two male members of Congress are resigning after being held accountable for their own harassment claims, Michigan Congressman John Conyers and Minnesota Senator Al Franken.

"I may be resigning but I am not giving up my voice," Franken said Thursday.

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) was one of the first female senators to call on Franken to step down. She said changes need to be made on how these cases are addressed inside the halls of Congress.

"No body knows where to report and what happens when you do," Gillibrand said.

As the process works now victims have to go through months of negotiations with the person who harassed them. Gillibrand is working to make the system more transparent and provide better support for survivors.

"We need to have this national conversation it is really important that we collected say- it is not okay," she said.

Gabbard and Gillibrand continue to push for a change in the way Congress addresses these claims. Some experts say a balance of power on Capitol Hill could help.

"80% men members of Congress I mean getting closer to something like 50/50 would certainly help," Gary Barker, International Director at Promundo said.

Gender Studies Expert Gary Barker said he isn't surprised by the latest flurry of allegations. He said educating boy and girls to respect others could spark the cultural shift.

"That doesn't start with the 60 year old member of Congress. Yes, he could use that refresher course on why this isn't ok, but that means talking to our sons and daughters from 10,12, 14 years of age," he added.

Meanwhile women work to change the culture in Congress.

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