Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Sexual Harassment Victim's Conundrum

he sexual  degenerate boss' ideal work environment of the 1960s - 1990s involved supervising young women who needed their jobs and lots of fondling, groping and occasionally more intense assaultive behavior.  One of the satisfying aspects of representing harassed or assaulted employees is that through time, large verdicts, and publicity, the prevalence of sexual harassment is waning. I look forward to being put out of business because employees fire perverts who assault and harass others.  

Yet, even though sexual harassment has diminished, it, like whooping cough, has not been eradicated. Every once in awhile the family of a 16 year old girl shows up in my office with their little girl who has been manhandled by her supervisor. It is sad to witness a child whose innocence has been stolen from her, and to see the pain in her parents' eyes. 

 From time to time, we see awful examples of women or men, the victims of the workplace bullies, who, because of their own insecurities and meanness, harass to humiliate others.   I've seen cases of male genital exposure, forced touchings, obscene rumors, just so the bully can feel tough.   

All of these cases create great mortification and humiliation and it takes great courage to allow the foul actions to be publicly filed in a pleading potentially for the whole world to read.  Newspapers don't print names of sexual assault victims for a reason.  So what does a weakened yet determined  normal person do when he or she must go to court to stop these awful people because the corporation will not?

Sometimes these lawsuits get press.  Other times, they are spread throughout the workplace where the bullies ridicule and lie about the victims, causing more emotional damage. We need the public to know that juries don't tolerate abuse and punish companies who permit sexual harassment, but at what cost to the claimant?  Oftentimes, plaintiffs are retraumatized just going through the litigation process itself. And, unfortunately, sometimes the employer revels in the retraumatization and either force a trial, which employers generally lose or employers wait until the last possible moment before trial to settle.  The longer the litigation is dragged out, the more trauma to the plaintiff, the less likely someone else will have the courage to fight, unless of course, the plaintiff gets a large verdict.  So the employers plans can backfire. 

As a lawyer, how do we protect a client from re-victimization?  Sometimes we simply cannot.  Sometimes the whole story needs to get out in order for justice to be done.  Sometimes one case needs to be tried, with all it's sordid details, to make employers take discrimination and harassment seriously.  I just hope it is worth it to those who have to split their guts open for the whole world to see.  People do make a difference, but it can get pretty ugly in the process.  

I am truly amazed repeatedly by the courage of my clients.  I hope they can see their courage pay off.  This can be an ugly business.


  1. I wish you had been around when I was 21 and sexually molested by the 3rd level manager with the large company I worked for. I was not the only one. there were many and some even used it for advancement. It certainly changed my life. Of course, I could say nothing, in the mid 70s. I needed the job. Keep up defending the defenseless. Thank you for what you do.

  2. Great blog Lynne.