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Sexual harassment in politics: How Missouri is working to combat the issue

Allegations of sexual harassment inside government chambers continue to come to light across the country.

Democratic California Representative Jackie Speier spoke up this week after learning about two current Congress members who have allegedly engaged in sexual harassment. Speier went public last month with her experience of sexual harassment as a congressional staffer.

Two more women came forward Wednesday accusing Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore of sexual misconduct when the women were teenagers.

“We know that sexual harassment, sexual assault does occur in any workplace environment,” said Matthew Huffman, prevention director for Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. “Interns are especially vulnerable to experiencing it.”

In 2015, Missouri’s speaker of the House John Diehl and Sen. Paul Levota both resigned from their positions after interns claimed they were sexually harassed by the men.

“Interns come into a situation where they have the least amount of authority in agency, and because of that the individuals who are in positions of power, it makes it much easier for them to take advantage,” Huffman said.

After the fallout in 2015, MCADSV and Partners in Prevention teamed up to create the Missouri Intern Resource Network. While the site does not provide a place to report sexual harassment, it does provide a list of resources and information on the issue.

Huffman said the site had 900 visitors in its first month.

‘It’s really important to focus on the fact that we have a strong support system of advocates around the state of Missouri and resources to help,” he said. “No one who experiences harassment is ever alone in this.”

Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, who has been outspoken about her experiences of sexual harassment while interning at the Missouri Capitol, helped fund the website.

Missouri House members and staff are now required to attend annual sexual harassment training.

ABC 17 News reached out to several Missouri lawmakers for comment on this story Wednesday, but did not hear back.

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