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Shaheen on sexual assault: ‘We need men to speak up’

After the harassment allegations leveled at Harvey Weinstein, the New Hampshire senator is calling for legislative remedies – and a cultural shift.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) is calling for a comprehensive legislative strategy around the issue of sexual assault, while also acknowledging Congress can only do so much in the wake of extensive harassment and rape allegations against Hollywood mogul and Democratic megadonor Harvey Weinstein.

“I do think we ought to look at every legislative remedy that might be available,” the New Hampshire senator told POLITICO’s Carrie Budoff Brown in the latest episode of Women Rule.

But Shaheen warned that Congress alone can’t provide the “one silver bullet fix.”

“That’s not going to be enough to change the culture,” she said on the podcast. “It’s important as part of the conversation, but we also need women to come forward, women to speak up. We need men to speak up and say, ‘This is not acceptable. We are not going to allow this in our businesses, in our workplaces, in our sports teams, anywhere.’”

Shaheen has ample experience tackling the issue of sexual assault as a lawmaker on Capitol Hill. In 2016, she authored and co-sponsored the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act, legislation that established a basic bill of rights for victims. Former President Barack Obama signed it into law last October.

The Democratic senator discussed that continuing fight – including legislation she’s currently working on that addresses sexual assault and domestic violence in public housing – at length on the Women Rule podcast. Shaheen stopped short, however, of laying out specific legislative proposals for Congress to consider.”

The New Hampshire politician also wrestled with other weighty topics, including the opioid crisis’ devastating effects on her state and the Trump administration’s soon-to-be-released plan to confront the issue more directly.

Shaheen also reflected on her own pioneering career as the nation’s first woman to be both a governor and a U.S. senator and offered her thoughts for any women seeking a presidential nomination in 2020.

Read below for more highlights from the episode:

3:02 Shaheen puts a positive spin on the recent chatter springing up in the wake of the Weinstein revelations.

“I think we’re having a national conversation about this, and that women who have been too often characterized as victims are coming forward, and they’re taking charge of their own destinies, and that that’s really important to the conversation,” she says.

5:25 The Democratic senator considers sexual assault in the workplace and in public housing and weighs legislative remedies to address the issue.

9:52 Shaheen, the only woman who sits on the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations, discusses why it’s important for women to have a seat at the negotiating table – and the efforts of her female colleagues to ensure it.

“When women do well in developing countries,” the New Hampshire Democrat explains, “when they are educated, when they are able to make money, they tend to give back to their families and their communities at a higher percentage than men do.”

12:39 Shaheen, also a former governor of New Hampshire, talks about the need for increased attention to the opioid crisis in her hard-hit state.

“We need as many resources as are available for treatment, for recovery, for prevention, to help law enforcement,” she says.

15:35 Shaheen – the first woman who has served as both a governor and a U.S. senator – gives a comprehensive overview of her trailblazing career, including a recounting of how she first got started in the political arena.

“I have this theory that some people are born with artistic ability, and some people can sing, and some of us get the political gene,” the senator says of her interest in public office.

18:24 Shaheen dissects her 2002 loss on the national stage, when she first ran for U.S. Senate, and notes that the election happened shortly after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

“George W. Bush was president, and national security was very important to voters,” she says. “I think women certainly at that time were viewed as not as tough on national security issues, and so that had an impact.”

Shaheen goes on to discuss why she felt compelled to launch another campaign for Senate six years later: “The thing that really made the difference for me, I think, was looking at my grandchildren.”

22:10 Asked whether she has her eye on any woman for the 2020 presidential election, the senator demurs.

“Not yet,” Shaheen says. She cautions that women who run in the next presidential election must glean lessons from all the campaigns of last year.

“If you’re going to have a winning campaign, you’re going to look not just at Hillary’s campaign; you’re going to look at Donald Trump’s campaign; you’re going to look at Bernie Sanders’ campaign.”she says.