Paul Ryan orders mandatory sexual harassment training for members, staff

Lawmakers Hold Hearing on Sexual Harassment in Congress

Brendan Hoffman Getty Images The Speaker's rostrum in the U.S. House of Representatives

She painted a picture of sexual predation on Capitol Hill, which included "victims having their private parts grabbed on the House floor".

The allegations come as the entertainment industry and others are reeling from dozens of accusations of sexual harassment, assault and rape, propelled by a litany of complaints against director Harvey Weinstein.

Comstock told the story involving the unidentified congressman at a hearing on preventing sexual harassment in Congress, saying she doesn't know who the member is but heard the story from a trustworthy source.

"I think it's important we name names", Comstock said.

California Congresswoman Jackie Speier revealed that two current members of Congress, who she wouldn't name, have sexually harassed staffers.

Earlier in the hearing, Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock of Virginia said a former staffer told her that a Congressman asked a staffer to bring some materials to his residence, greeted her at the door wearing a towel and exposed himself after he invited her inside.

It comes amid growing calls for an overhaul of the way Congress handles allegations of sexual harassment, including a letter signed by more than 1,500 former Hill staffers who want to see reform for what they say are "inadequate" sexual harassment policies in Congress. "At that point, he made a decision to expose himself", Comstock said.

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"What are we doing here for women right now", she added, "who are dealing with someone like that?"

Last week the Senate passed a measure requiring harassment training for senators and congressional aides.

"Our goal is not only to raise awareness, but also make abundantly clear that harassment in any form has no place in this institution", Speaker Paul Ryan said. Individual offices could voluntarily have their staffs attend trainings offered by the Office of Compliance.

She said that when she was just starting her career in politics, the chief of staff in her office sexually assaulted her. Payouts to the victims were not financed by the people who engaged in sexual harassment but by taxpayers.

One possible solution to the issue has already been suggested - mandatory sexual harassment training for all lawmakers and their staff. If a member of Congress has been accused, they receive a House lawyer to represent them for free while the accuser does not receive free counsel.

Interns and fellows do not have access to the process, she noted. "And then they have to go through a one-month "cooling off" period, all the while they are still required to work in that office that was a hostile work environment", she said.

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