Katko fights sexual violence in public housing

U.S. Rep. John Katko (R-NY) is working diligently on Capitol Hill to thwart sexual harassment and sexual violence in public housing located across America.

“We must ensure that victims of sexual harassment are heard and treated fairly,” Rep. Katko said.

In Washington, D.C., on Feb. 6, the congressman introduced the bipartisan Preventing Sexual Harassment in Public Housing Act, H.R. 5788, with cosponsors U.S. Reps. Dave Joyce (R-OH), Rodney Davis (R-IL), and Ann Kuster (D-NH), which would amend the Fair Housing Act to require that a complaint of sexual harassment be annually reported to Congress.

Rep. Katko also led a roundtable discussion on ending sexual violence in public housing that was hosted by the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence, which he co-chairs.

The roundtable featured CNY Fair Housing Executive Director Sally Santangelo, who discussed local harassment cases, as well as other housing discrimination challenges in Central New York.

For example, CNY Fair Housing was contacted three years ago regarding allegations of sexual harassment by a landlord in Oswego, N.Y. The organization joined with six victims of assault and filed a case in federal court alleging pervasive sexual harassment. Shortly thereafter, additional victims came forward with allegations against the same landlord and another lawsuit was filed. Both cases were settled in August 2019 and the landlord was permanently barred from contact with the tenants.

“We appreciate Congressman Katko’s focus on the important issue of sexual harassment and housing,” Santangelo said. “We know from our work at CNY Fair Housing that sexual harassment cases are often unreported and that we really don’t have a good sense of just how pervasive these cases are. Improving reporting on these cases and ensuring that enforcement remains a focus of our Justice Department is a good first step in addressing this issue.”

According to Rep. Katko’s office, the Oswego landlord incident spurred the congressman to introduce H.R. 5788, which would require the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to report the number of sexual harassment incidents independent of other cases of discrimination based on sex, among other provisions.

“By increasing reporting and bolstering tenants’ rights to prosecute cases, we can do more to prevent and address cases of sexual harassment in public housing,” he said.