Debbie Dingell alleges "prominent" Senator sexually harassed her

Friday, November 17, 2017 - 5:14pm

A growing wake of women have revealed their struggles with sexual harassment in the nation’s capital, and now U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, joins them after telling CNN that a U.S. Senator and a “prominent” historical figure made unwanted sexual advances.

Dingell said the unnamed “prominent” historical figure tried to put his hand up her skirt a couple decades ago, during her first year of marriage to John Dingell, whose Congress seat she took in 2015. When seated next to the prominent figure, he repeatedly put his hand up her leg. She never mentioned the harassment to her husband for fear he would lash out.

The U.S. Senator also remained unnamed, as Dingell explained there would be negative repercussions in her doing so, a fear that keeps many women from sharing their experiences.

“For too many women, those ‘me too’ stories are going to have consequences –– economic if you’re a waitress or work on a factory floor or a small business,” Dingell said. “Where’s their job? But I would still play a price to name some of them.”

Stories from other female lawmakers and staff have revealed just how pervasive sexual harassment is in the Capitol. Dingell herself said she has had too many “me too” stories.

Multiple allegations have come up this week against Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore for sexually abusing underage girls and Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota) was found to have groped a woman without her consent. Additionally,  Reps. Jackie Speier (D-California) and Barbara Comstock (R-Virginia) accused male congressmen of sexual misconduct after a male congressmen exposed his genitals to a staffer.

Speier and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) revealed bills in the House and Senate to reform sexual harassment training and the sexual harassment complaint process on the Hill to boost transparency.

Thursday, the Office of Compliance said it has paid victims $17 million in settlements for sexual harassment and discrimination cases, as well as others.

Dingell said she hopes this transparency will help end the ubiquity of sexual misconduct throughout the country.

“There are a lot of men on Capitol Hill, there are a lot of men throughout the country that have been inappropriate in their jokes and hopefully you're going to stop and will start thinking about it.”