Source AP ©

Government worker sacked for sexual harassment

A longtime local government worker is fired after she cooperates with an investigation of sexual harassment allegations against a high-ranking official. The Supreme Court said Friday it will decide whether federal civil rights law protects employees from such retaliation.

The justices agreed to review claims by Vicky Crawford, who was fired in 2003 after more than 30 years as an employee of the school system for Nashville, Tenn., and Davidson County.

Months earlier, investigators interviewed Crawford about the school district's director of employee relations, Gene Hughes, and Crawford told them Hughes had sexually harassed her and other employees, the AP reports.

A 2002 study of students in the 8th through the 11th grade by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) revealed that 83% of girls have been sexually harassed, and 78% of boys have been sexually harassed. In their 2006 study on sexual harassment at colleges and universities, the AAUW reported that 62% of female college students and 61% of male college students report having been sexually harassed at their university, with 80% of the reported harassment being peer-to-peer. 51% of male college students admit to sexually harassing someone in college, with 22% admitting to harassing someone often or occasionally. 31% percent of female college students admitted to harassing someone in college.

In a 2000 national survey conducted for the AAUW, it was reported that roughly 290,000 students experienced some sort of physical sexual abuse or harassment by a public school employee, such as a teacher or coach, between 1991 and 2000. In a major 2004 study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education, nearly 10 percent of U.S. public school students were shown to have been targeted with unwanted sexual attention by school employees.In their 2002 study, the AAUW reported that 38% percent of the students were sexually harassed by teachers or school employees.

However, it is important to acknowledge that statistics do not give a complete picture of the pervasiveness of the problem as most sexual harassment situations go unreported. (Boland 2002, Dzeich 1990).

Retaliation and backlash against a victim are very common, particularly a complainant. Victims who speak out against sexual harassment are often labeled troublemakers who are on their own power trips, or who are looking for attention. Similar to cases of rape or sexual assault, the victim often becomes the accused, with their appearance, private life, and character likely to fall under intrusive scrutiny and attack. They risk hostility and isolation from colleagues, supervisors, teachers, fellow students, and even friends. They may become the targets of mobbing or relational aggression.