Female lawmakers say they’ve been sexually harassed while in Congress

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A “Me Too” campaign propelled thousands of women (and men) to reveal the abuse they’ve endured at the hands of power-hungry bosses and colleagues.

Now female lawmakers are exposing the harassment some of them say they received at the hands of male congressmen. Former Republican Rep. Mary Bono said she endured lewd comments from a fellow lawmaker, but at one point had enough when he approached her on the House floor.

The unnamed lawmaker, who still serves in Congress, allegedly told Bono that he had been thinking about her in the shower, the AP reported. That’s when Bono told him his comments were extremely demeaning and he finally backed off.

“It is a man’s world, it’s still a man’s world,” Bono said. “Not being a flirt and not being a bitch. That was my rule, to try to walk that fine line.”

Bono, who replaced her famous husband Sonny Bono’s seat, was eventually defeated after serving 15 years, but her story of sexual harassment is not unique.

Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), speaks at the California Republican Party Fall Convention dinner in Los Angeles, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

“When I was a very new member of Congress in my early 30s, there was a more senior member who outright propositioned me, who was married, and despite trying to laugh it off and brush it aside, it would repeat. And I would avoid that member,” said Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif.

She accused her harasser of not only “ogling” her, but said he touched her inappropriately on the House floor, the AP reported.

Sanchez said there was no HR department to complain to, and argued the former congressman was ultimately employed by his constituents. For these and other reasons, she never went public with his name.

“I just don’t think it would be helpful,” she said.

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House Benghazi Committee member Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif. questions Democratic presidential candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, during the committee’s hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

“This is about power,” said former California Sen. Barbara Boxer who described and an incident in the 1980s where she said a male colleague made a sexually suggestive comment.

“That was an example of the way I think we were thought of, a lot of us. … It’s hostile and embarrasses, and therefore could take away a person’s power,” she said.

Boxer and other female lawmakers came out with the allegations to the Washington Post. Although, the incidents aren’t nearly as pervasive as the scandals swarming Hollywood, they aren’t anomalies.

“I don’t think I’m the only one,” Former Rep. Hilda Solis said. “What I tried to do was ignore it, turn away, walk away. Obviously it’s offensive. Are you supposed to be flattered? No, we’re adults,” she said.

Solis left Congress in 2009 to join the Obama administration as labor secretary and currently works as a Los Angeles County supervisor.

“It’s humiliating, even though they may have thought they were being cute. No, it’s not. It’s not appropriate. I’m your colleague, but he doesn’t see me that way, and that’s a problem,” Solis said.

At least three of the four lawmakers told friends or aides about the incidents, and in some cases were witnessed by other lawmakers, the AP reported.

Rep. Jackie Speier, another from California, went public in a big way with a video released on Twitter. Speier alleges sexual assault by a male chief of staff when she was  congressional staffer.

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It’s one thing for seedy Hollywood to have its shameful stories of sexual harassment and abuse, but if it’s also happening in the halls of Congress, that adds another layer of sleaziness to an already scandalous story.

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