Hollywood inspires Capitol Hill's whisper network to come out of the closet

Congresswomen and female staffers are sharing stories of harassment and assault.

Congresswomen and female staffers in the nation's capital are calling out a culture of tolerance of bad behavior, inspired by those who began this tough conversation in Hollywood.

McGowan addressed the audience, calling them "fabulous, strong, powerful me toos."

"I have been harassed. I've been maligned, and you know what? I'm just like you," McGowan told convention attendees. "What happened to me behind the scenes happens to all of us in this society, and that cannot stand, and it will not stand. I came to be a voice for all of us who have been told that we are nothing. For all of us who have been looked down on ... No more. Name it, shame it, and call it out. Join me."

Now the social-media-driven #MeToo movement she helped spark has been ignited on Capitol Hill.

Taking a cue from the #MeToo campaign, Speier is launching #MeTooCongress, urging lawmakers and staffers to speak out by sharing their stories.

"I was working as a congressional staffer," Speier recalls in the video. "The chief of staff held my face, kissed me and stuck his tongue in my mouth."

She is not alone.

"He looked at me and paused, and he said, 'Well, did you bring your knee pads?'" she said on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday. "I do think he was joking, but it was shocking that he would make that joke to a colleague."

A recent survey found that 40 percent of female congressional staffers cited sexual harassment as a problem on Capitol Hill. One in six female aides said they experienced sexual harassment in their office. But unlike at many workplaces, on the Hill there is no mandatory sexual harassment training.

To file a complaint, victims must go through counseling, mediation and a cooling-off period before filing a legal claim — all while working in the same environment where the alleged harassment took place.

In a statement Friday, Halperin apologized "to the women [he] mistreated" admitting his behavior "caused fear and anxiety for women who were only seeking to do their jobs."

Speier is calling for a complete overhaul of the complaint process to make it easier for victims to come forward. Next week she is expected to introduce legislation to make sexual harassment training mandatory for all members of Congress and their staffers every year.