California Congresswoman Jackie Speier spoke out Friday about being sexually harassed during the early years of her political career.
Speier posted a video on Twitter of her experience, in which she detailed an incident with the chief of staff for former Rep. Leo Ryan. Speier now represents Ryan’s old district.
“Like so many of you, I have a “me too” story to share,” she said in the video. “I was working as a congressional staffer. The chief of staff held my face, kissed me and stuck his tongue in my mouth.”
Speier spoke with KTVU by phone Friday and said the problem still persists.
“The question I'm asked often is, ‘Is it still going on,’ she said. “I guarantee it's still going on. Both with calls I've had to my office today and with cases that have been settled as recently as last week, it is still going on in the Capitol.”
She is encouraging other victims to come forward on Twitter using the hashtag “MeTooCongress.” It is a spin-off of the “MeToo” hashtag on Twitter.
Dr. Sarai Crain-Pope, Executive Director of Bay Area Women Against Rape, said the movement has exposed something that has been kept silent for a long time.
“The momentum is a powerful thing,” Crain-Pope said. “It's a wonderful thing because it’s not only victims to speak out, but it’s holding harassers accountable for their intolerable and often celebrated behavior.”
Speier’s announcement comes the same day Democratic Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra apologized for groping a staffer in 2009. The apology follows a letter circulated last week that claims there is a culture of sexual harassment at the state Capitol.
And actress Rose McGowan made her first appearance since she accused Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein of rape. She addressed the crowd at the Women’s Convention in Detroit.
“We are pure. We are strong. We are brave and we will fight,” McGowan said.
Speier said, in Congress, perpetrators are getting away with their behavior when a complaint is filed.
“The money doesn't come out of the members account, it comes out of the U.S. Treasury, so all of it is taxpayers paying for it,” Speier said. “And because there are typically non-disclosure agreements that are signed, no one ever knowns about it.”
Speier plans to introduce a bill next week, to amend the current rules, that would require mandatory sexual harassment training for members and staff of the House and to streamline the process for filing a complaint. Speier said the current process is too lengthy and burdensome.