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Mary Bono alleges sexual harassment by current congressman

Former local Congresswoman Mary Bono...

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - Former U.S. Representative Mary Bono spoke out Friday about experiencing sexual harassment from a current congressman.

Bono told the Associated Press, that the congressman approached her on the House floor and told her he'd been thinking about her in the shower, she'd had enough.

She confronted the congressman telling him his comments were demeaning and wrong. And he backed off.

Bono said she ultimately confronted her colleague after he'd made repeated harassing comments.

She said it seemed like the lawmaker didn't know how to talk to a woman as an equal.

"Instead of being 'how's the weather, how's your career, how's your bill,' it was 'I thought about you while I was in the shower.' So it was a matter of saying to him 'That's not cool, that's just not cool.'"

She declined to identify the lawmaker, saying the behavior stopped after she finally challenged him. 

“It’s important to note that, over my 15 year career, there were very few examples of inappropriate conduct. My male colleagues were almost always highly respectful and would not tolerate any harassment of any kind if they were to have witnessed it. But, it is an important dialog we need to have. We need to both protect those who are affected by sexual harassment and empower them so they may respond adequately and quickly,” said Bono.

Former Senator, Barbara Boxer, also opened up to KESQ/CBS Local 2 about her experiences with sexual harassment. The first time, she was a student. She was pinned against the wall by a teacher. She says got away and never reported it out of fear of retaliation. 

The second time she was faced with harassment, she was a brand new member of the House of Representatives in the 1980's. 

"It was my first bill and I was so excited. I gave my speech and one of my colleagues said, 'I want to associate myself with the remarks of the gentle girl from California. Then he paused and added, 'I just want to associate with her'. And the whole room laughed and I was so embarrassed and then the Chairman says, I want to associate with her to," Boxer said. 

Boxer also confronted the chairman and demand the remarks be taken off the record. Both lawmakers say the incidents happened early on in their careers and are inexcusable.

"It's an issue of power. It's an issue of respect, or lack there of, and we need this change in the culture. I think this starts by holding people accountable," said Boxer.

Dr. Jamie Kirkpatrick, PsyD, MFT is the CEO of All-Desert Wellness Centers in Palm Desert. She works with victims of sexual harassment and assault and says there are steps to take to put an end to it.

"First is to speak up to the person who is harassing you. It is the best sure way to make them stop. Beyond that, get support from family and friends, and third, report it. You have every right to go to the police at any time. It is illegal to sexually harass someone," Kirckpatrick said.

Bono served the Coachella Valley for 15 years as a representative for California's 45th congressional district before being defeated in 2012.

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