Tags: debbie dingell | me too | sexual harassment | congress

Rep. Dingell: I Have Too Many 'Me Too' Stories to Tell Them All

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By    |   Friday, 17 November 2017 11:22 AM

Rep. Debbie Dingell Friday said she's got too many "me too" stories during her years in politics to talk about them all, including one involving a senator who she refused to identify further than as a "prominent historical person."

Further, she told CNN's "New Day" co-anchor Alisyn Camerota that even with the widening movement to name names, women still face too many consequences for taking action against their attackers.

"A lot of people are talking about what's happening in this country, and that this is a watershed moment," Dingell said. "I don't know that this is a watershed moment."

Dingell said she's "not old, but I'm seasoned" and she's been around Capitol Hill in different roles over the years, and has learned that the matter of inappropriate sexual behavior has been a "fact of life."

"It was Republicans," Dingell said. "It was Democrats. People knew who to avoid. You tried to watch out for each other, but if you said anything, you're the troublemaker. You were the person that would pay the price."

During her issue with the senator, Dingell said she was in the first year of her marriage to retired Rep. John Dingell, "so it tells you how long ago. The hand kept going up my leg. A woman recognized what was happening and said switch places. We watch out for each other. But we've got to change. People need to speak up. Men and women speak up and say it's not okay."

Dingell said that she was afraid her husband "might kill" the senator if he knew, but "everyone at my office knew. The minute we were at a social setting, somebody would move in to protect me so I would never be alone."

She admitted that it's a problem when women don't name their attacker, as they don't have the courage because there could be consequences for taking action.

"We have to get to a point," she said. "Let this be a watershed moment in changing the culture, and [making] men understand that it's not okay."

Dingell said just the fact that she's a congresswoman makes her "luckier than 99 percent" of the women who are sexually harassed or abused, but she'd still "pay a price" if she was to name some of those who acted wrongly.

The House and Senate both have said there will be mandatory sexual harassment training, and Dingell said there are "clearly outrageous situations where people have been violated, but we have to figure out how to deal with those. I don't know if there are more stories."

She also said she believes people should be considered innocent until they're proven guilty, but still she does think people such as Rep. Al Franken, who apologized Thursday after he was accused of kissing and grabbing a woman 10 years ago, should pay a price for their actions.

"I don't think any of the stories that I could tell are okay," Dingell added, but she does find the stories alleging Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore's acts against teenaged girls to be "disgusting. I can't tell you what that does to me."

But there are "a lot of men" on Capitol Hill who have been "inappropriate in their jokes," said Dingell.

"In my first job, I never had met John Dingell, there was a man who was my supervisor who talked about my father, tried to blackmail me, do everything he could," said the congresswoman. "I was told him, look, 14th floor, the executive floor, deal with it or leave. That's not okay. That is simply not okay. None of these things are okay."

Reps. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., and Barbara Comstock, R-Mass., have said there are still two sitting lawmakers in Congress who have engaged in sexual harassment, but they have not named them, but Dingell said she does not know who they are talking about, although she has heard rumors.

But even though Dingell is in a place of power, she said things have not changed to the point that all women, including herself, can name the people who have harmed them.

"I think for too many there are consequences in naming who the person is," said Dingell. "We have to change the culture and we have to have everybody speak up and do the mandatory sexual harassment training so people understand what's acceptable and what's not. People were afraid to hug each other goodbye for Thanksgiving."

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Rep. Debbie Dingell Friday said she's got too many "me too" stories during her years in politics to talk about them all, including one involving a senator who she refused to identify further than as a "prominent historical person."
debbie dingell, me too, sexual harassment, congress
Friday, 17 November 2017 11:22 AM
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