01/10/2018 09:24 EST | Updated 01/10/2018 11:02 EST

Male MPs and staff are bystanders to sexual misconduct on Hill: former staffer

OTTAWA — A former political staffer and women's rights advocate says male MPs and staff on Parliament Hill are often bystanders who do nothing to help create a safe workplace for female counterparts.

Lauren Dobson-Hughes, who worked for the federal NDP, says men yield enormous power, adding the issue of sexual misconduct on Parliament Hill is rampant.

Last month, the Canadian Press conducted a voluntary survey of current female MPs and found more than half of respondents — 58 per cent — had personally been the target of one or more forms of sexual misconduct while in office, including inappropriate or unwanted remarks, gestures or text messages of a sexual nature.

Former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose and Green party Leader Elizabeth May say they are most concerned about vulnerable young staffers and interns on the Hill who have precarious jobs and fear speaking up about misconduct.

Dobson-Hughes says she was about 25 years old when she received a "giant wet kiss" from a much older MP on the Hill in front of at least 20 people, adding no one around her seemed to think the behaviour was out of the ordinary.

She says she's pleased veteran New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen is calling on his male counterparts to usher in a culture change and combat sexual misconduct he says is often viewed as a "public secret" in political life.