(LifeZette) A former Congressional Black Caucus fellow who accused a congressman of sexually harassing her in 2013 said Wednesday on Fox News’ “Ingraham Angle” that a “pervasive, incestuous silence” prevents women “from speaking up because they don’t have the courage to speak out against such a powerful person.”
M. Reese Everson said there is a “little system” among congressional staffers that warns “other young ladies to kind of stay away from certain people.”
Noting that she had heard no warnings about the congressman she worked for before she began her fellowship, Everson said she was shocked and disturbed when the congressman asked her if he could “flirt” with her to help her “excel” in her career.
“And so it was at that moment that I realized, OK. You’ve got to get out of here because this is a situation that is only going to turn for the worse,” Everson told host Laura Ingraham. “And as a young woman, your instinct is fight, flight or freeze. And my instinct was to run.”
Although Everson attempt to flee the situation by transfering to another office, she told Ingraham she “was not successful.”
“And I was retaliated against, wrongfully terminated and then blackballed,” Everson said. “And so my experience was a very traumatic one where not only because of speaking up did I lose my job, but my ability to find another job. And I think that that’s the worst part of all of this is the silence. It’s a pervasive, incestuous silence that keeps women hidden and keeps women from speaking up because they don’t have the courage to speak out against such a powerful person.”
Noting that she filed a formal complaint with the congressional accountability office, Everson said her position as a fellow made her ineligible for the office’s services.
But if she had been eligible, she would have been required to receive “mandatory” counseling for filing her complaint.
Ingraham pointed to comments from Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) revealing that the House alone has paid out roughly $15 million for a variety of harassment settlements from 1997-2016, including sexual harassment settlements.
“One member of Congress has settled a claim and there has been a taxpayer settlement,” Speier told Chuck Todd Tuesday on MSNBC’s “MTP Daily.”
Speier also revealed at a Tuesday hearing that two current members of Congress have been accused of engaging in sexual harassment. One member is a Republican and one is a Democrat.
“They maintain among other things that they know for a fact that there are current members who have engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior,” Ingraham said. “So my question tonight is this: Why aren’t they naming names? Why aren’t others naming names? And I’m not the only one asking these questions and demanding real answers.”
By not naming those accused of engaging in sexual harassment, Ingraham said members of Congress are “enabling” such behavior to continue and are “complicit in the cover-up.”
“And I know it sounds harsh, but don’t they have an obligation to reveal wrongdoing on the part of their colleagues? Especially if the misconduct is directed against young, vulnerable staffers?” Ingraham said. “Doesn’t leadership have something to say about this? By the way, we all have a right to know. They work for us, and we the taxpayers are footing the bill for this absurd shush fund.”
Ingraham added that it is “totally unacceptable” for Congress “to operate under a different set of rules than everybody else” does.
Everson agreed, saying that any member of Congress who is aware of the sexual harassment has “an obligation” to report it.
“Everything is about sex about for sex. Sex is about power. And so you have these people with this power and they feel the ability to wield it over anyone that they see,” Everson said.
For his own part, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters Wednesday that politicians who know who has been accused of sexual harassment should “name them.”
“Just get it out. Lay it out. Change the rules so people can come to work without being harassed. Those who do these things need to be held accountable,” Graham said.
Republished with permission from LifeZette via iCopyright license.