Former Texas Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) has revealed a fellow lawmaker inappropriately touched her when she served in the state legislature, calling it a "systemic problem" that has long haunted women in the Texas Capitol.
"Like a lot of women in the Texas Capitol, I had my own experience with a sexual harassment encounter where I was inappropriately touched by a newly sworn-in House member at a social event," Davis said. "I don't believe he knew that I was a senator at the time. There is obviously no excuse regardless of who the person is. But, you know, because I was a senator, I had a way of holding him to account for that."
Davis said she, along with colleagues in the House, used their legislative power over the course of two sessions to make sure that representative, which she did not identify by name, didn't get a bill through.
"It was good to have the ability to hold someone responsible for behaving in that way, but unfortunately in the Texas Capitol, for so many women that work there, there is no way to hold people to account who are doing such things," Davis said.
Davis said the behavior has long gone unchecked in the Capitol and is one of more than two dozen complaints of sexual harrassment by current and former lawmakers outlined in a recent report by The Texas Tribune.
"A lot of women have kind of hardened themselves to it, just sort of put their heads down and moved through it," she added.
This week, both the House speaker and lieutenant governor have called for reviews of their respective policies. In the House, a person can report an allegation to the chair of the House Administration Committee, a position currently held by Republican state Rep. Charlie Geren of Fort Worth. Complaints can also be made to the Texas Workforce Commission.
On the Senate side, complaints are reported to the Senate Human Resources office or supervisors in individual offices.
But according to several published reports, former staffers said they would not have reported lawmaker's transgressions to the House Administration Committee because they had no confidence that the member-led committee would be objective.
"I probably would never even have felt like that was an outlet that I could trust, but I didn’t even know that was a process that existed,” Genevieve Cato, a former House employee, told the Daily Beast.
Geren noted that information on the policies for reporting assault are detailed in a manual that goes out to all House offices. He told NBC his office is currently working to enhance the definition of what sexual harassment is, and on "strengthening training for all employees, interns and members."
Davis believes the system needs to be much stronger.
"I think there needs to be a much broader system of prevention, of having conversations about what harassment looks like, what are inappropriate comments," she said.