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'Me Too Act' supporters cross political and gender lines

November 28, 2017 06:25 PM

ALBANY - "Me Too" began as a hashtag, erupted into a social media movement -- and now could effect change at the very top.

"Elected leaders should not be held to the lowest standards. They should be held to the highest standards," said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D - New York) in an interview with MSNBC.

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The goal of the "Me Too Act" is to prevent and respond better to sexual harassment charges lodged by members and employees of Congress.  

"People who have power hide behind power...this is a giant step forward in holding those people accountable," believes Lindsey Crusan-Muse, the Director of the Sexual Assault and Crime Victims Assistance Program at Samaritan Hospital.

The proposed legislation would waive the waiting period and required counseling before a complaint can be filed. It would also eliminate the non-disclosure that many victims are required to sign. Any settlement would have to be paid by the lawmaker, out of pocket, and not with government funds. Since 1997, $15 million of taxpayer money has been used to settle 260 harassment claims.

"It's a moment of reckoning and what's happening in Congress young staffers are afraid their careers will be ruined if they come forward so I'm calling on my colleagues to rewrite the rules," maintained Senator Gillibrand.

The hope in the Capital Region is that what's happening in Washington will empower local victims.

"It makes a powerful statement to everyone that there are people with power standing up and have the ability to do something and that this is not ok behavior," adds Crusan-Muse.

The Congressional Calendar is filled through December, but considering the high profile cases in Hollywood and Washington, the "Me Too Act" is expected to get bi-partisan traction in 2018.

To report sexual assault or violence, contact the New York State Department of Health's Enough is Enough program.

Credits

Abigail Bleck

Copyright 2017 - WNYT-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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