It’s unfortunate, but it’s reality. The list of politicians engaging in sexual “shenanigans” — from President on down — continues to grow. Just last week news broke that 40-year old Vance McAllister, a newly elected member of the U.S. House of Representatives, was caught on surveillance video kissing Melissa Peacock, McAllister’s 33-year old female staffer, in his district office.
McAllister, who is married with 5 children, reportedly is long-time friends (or, more likely, no longer friends) with Peacock’s husband.
When the news spread and the video went viral, Representative Jackie Speier called for all House members, and their staffers, to attend mandatory sexual harassment training. Representative Speier declared, “[i]t is time for all of us to get trained – elected officials and their staffs – to recognize what sexual harassment is, and how to prevent it, and what to do if it happens.”
Sexual harassment training for Congress? Seems reasonable, right? Sexual harassment training is considered a “best practice” in the private sector, and it’s even required by law in some states. Is there any reason to treat the House of Representatives any different than the private sector when it comes to educating about sexual harassment?
Fox News commentator Greta Van Susteren apparently thinks so. She declared Representative Speier’s proposal a “really dumb idea.” She believes it’s “ridiculous” to “punish” an entire group based on the bad behavior of one Congressman and one staffer. Van Susteren’s video statement can be found here.
Van Susteren’s remarks raise an interesting question: What is the purpose of sexual harassment training? Is it an after-the-fact “remedy” intended to “punish” only those who engaged in inappropriate behavior, or is it intended to educate an entire group in an effort to prevent inappropriate behavior in the future? Van Susteren apparently believes the former, and Representative Speier apparently believes the latter.
We’ll likely never know whether sexual harassment training would have prevented the McAllister/Peacock situation. It’s quite possible that the relationship was 100% consensual from the get-go.
Whatever transpired, the McAllister/Peacock situation has, once again, brought to the forefront the issue of sexual “shenanigans” in the political arena. If there is a chance that sexual harassment training may help reverse the trend (and I believe there is such a chance), then isn’t it worth sending all elected officials, and their staff members, to training for an hour or so every year – just like we do in the private sector? Perhaps Representative Speier’s proposal is not “ridiculous” or “dumb” after all.