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Several members of Congress spoke out against sexual assault Wednesday, saying it shouldn’t be tolerated in the halls of Congress. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said members of Congress should be held to a higher standard. (Dec. 6)
AP

Voters have right to know when tax dollars are used to cover up sexual abuses.

After this week’s special election in Alabama, it should be clear that character and ethics issues are decisive to voters. Ironically, this exactly explains both the absurd system for reporting sexual harassment in congress and, more importantly, why we don’t know the names of those elected officials who have used it to remain anonymous — and in power.

In the midst of the numerous sexual harassment cases recently revealed, we cannot forget about our elected officials who have harassed employees and been allowed to keep their behavior a secret. While we now know that congress has utilized a system to hide sexual harassment complaints and that taxpayers have funded over $17 million in settlements over the past twenty years, we have no idea which members of congress committed these acts. As a result they have escaped accountability.

More: Sexual harassment stakes huge for low-income women. Will #MeToo help them too?

More: Restore power to sexual harassment victims on Capitol Hill: Congressman

This is not a past problem — it will continue to have future repercussions unless we confront it now. In other sectors like the media and entertainment, we’ve witnessed a far different trajectory: Offenders have been publicly revealed and suffered serious consequences for their behavior. But in congress, too many perpetrators remain hidden.

It is already difficult for victims to come forward against a powerful public official knowing they will likely suffer professionally. Yet congress designed a system that explicitly protects harassers and maintains secrecy. It is truly remarkable — and it allowed the behavior to continue.

Everyone agrees that if a candidate commits sexual harassment or assault, it is relevant to voters and they have a right to know it. There is absolutely no argument to justify that sexual harassment or assault committed once elected is not just as relevant. Ironically, this is the underlying reason for those in power…