Troubling Endorsements of Sexual Harassment and Abuse

It’s hard to image how we as a society stomp out sexual abuse and harassment and truly help victims of assault when those in positions of power and authority do not take it seriously. When efforts to seek accountability fail, it sends a message to predators that they are free to continue.

Two situations come to mind for me as clear and overwhelming examples of this problem with accountability. Both situations are well documented and involve many offensive acts which did cause severe and lasting damages to victims.

In learning of these and other such situations involving abuse, a cover up and avoidance of accountability, I couldn’t help but ask this: if this kind of misconduct is tolerated and protected, what else are these predators and those who protect them willing to do? Does any life, any right, any need…matter to them?

AUGUSTA: OUTSIDE THE GATES

In Georgia, in the family law area of our legal system, a sexual predator was given the position of Guardian ad Litem in many domestic cases involving child custody disputes. The role of this person as Guardian position lasted for years, so let yourself imagine how many lives were negatively impacted over that time and for years to follow. Unless you’ve been subjected to such pain and loss, however, it will be impossible to fathom the depth of suffering.

I’ll address the details of abuse by court-appointed Guardians (GAL’s) more fully in a separate post, but there are many and they are fueled by the same mentality that people are there to be used and taken advantage of, even when the court professional is a sworn officer of the court and expected to abide by laws specific to their role and profession.

Other court professionals knew of the predatory conduct in the Augusta area, and even discussed it amongst themselves in writing. They did nothing about it, and especially did nothing to address the twisted and harmful outcomes of cases, let alone the damages to the victims and their children. Of course the man eventually left the role of Guardian but was never held accountable and there was no investigation or relief for the families and children.

What happened?

The Guardian ad Litem chosen to sway the court in favor of one parent and against another used his position to coerce sexual favors from women subjected to his authority in their child custody litigation. In at least one case where the Guardian was complied with, the mother obtained custody when she was not the safe parent. That means the father in that case lost custody in spite of the evidence of the mother’s problems – endangering the children when they were in her care. Of course the father had no way of knowing that the mother of his children was being sexually harassed and assaulted by the GAL who influenced the court against him.

In many more cases involving abusive conduct by the Guardian, mothers who would not give in to his advances lost their children. In at least two cases, the children were forced to live with a parent who was psychologically abusive and potentially dangerous to them given issues with addiction and rage. Those mothers and their children were harmed badly as a result of this Guardian’s influence with judges and attorneys managing the cases, but there has been no recourse for them in either civil or criminal cases.

Even with news coverage of these cases and the pervasive sexual exploitation and fraud on the court, nothing was done about it. It was said by law enforcement that no crime occurred, that there was nothing the agency could do, and a judge actually just referred to the misconduct as “harassment,” saying, “sexual harassment isn’t a crime in Georgia.”

If a court-appointed Guardian ad Litem is not held accountable for such abusive conduct, and is allowed to freely abuse such power in this position of trust and control, what does that say about our system for determining what is in a child’s best interests? Can any parent expect to have their rights upheld when it comes to staying in a child’s life or having the ability to protect their children who are in harm’s way?

Taking it a step further, if such predatory conduct by a court-appointed Guardian is to go unpunished while the lawyers bill for the work going on around this conduct, what else, what other forms of abuse, were being perpetrated against victims of abuse? Were the professionals in this area aware of other abusive conduct and staying silent, or worse?

With Georgia’s extremely high rates of child sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking, the issues raised here should not just be filed away. These are not isolated incidents but indicators of bigger problems in the legal system and in our state.

Predatory conduct and the mindset of those in power who avoid holding perpetrators accountable make for a very dangerous combination. *If you can’t be protected from sexual assault when you enter the court system, where can you expect to be protected?

 

CORPORATE MALFEASANCE AND COVERUPS

The story below is connected to a recently resolved criminal case and ongoing civil matter in Georgia. Both sides of the story are troublesome and raise issues of accountability for wrongdoing; it appears that there is no perfect answer, no one clear resolution in store. I’ll say for now that one crime does not justify another, but it will be up to the jury and court to determine if secretly video-taping inside another person’s home is a punishable offense in this particular situation.

April 11, 2018, update: the jury acquitted the defendants today on all charges. Read more in the Daily Report here.

The purpose of sharing this information here is to highlight the mindset of sexual predators and lack of accountability for their misconduct, as well the extreme challenges for victims of abuse in seeking relief. Currently, there are no criminal investigations into any form of sexual abuse related to these parties that I’m aware of. News media, especially the legal news media, are only focused on the gyrations of the criminal trial for eavesdropping violations by the alleged victim of sexual abuse.

Updates on this trial are being reported by Robin McDonald with the Daily Report/ALM. For the latest as of Monday, April 9th, click here.

This update reveals the detective who tried to look into the allegations of sexual abuse by the employer stated that no crime was committed, but he was also unable to conduct a thorough investigation due to records being sealed and ongoing civil actions wherein parties and lawyers did not want to talk openly. Allegedly the court issued a gag order preventing the housekeeper from speaking about the matter. Police Lt. Carben Tyus pointed out that the existence of a parallel civil case does not, as a rule, impede a criminal investigation. “They are often simultaneous,” he said, adding that criminal prosecutions often take precedence over civil cases. It seems that one of the issues raised was that the alleged victim waited months before reporting, and produced no evidence of a crime, only narrative about the civil litigation.

BACKGROUND

In Texas, a woman was fired in retaliation for reporting severe and prolonged sexual harassment and assault by her co-workers and supervisors. When she left and started her own business, her business was attacked to cause her loss of income. I didn’t know about this case and the federal court’s scathing opinion of the predatory and retaliatory conduct until April of 2018 because it was introduced in the aforementioned criminal trial of a woman and lawyer involved in confronting the former Waffle House chief executive. Regardless of the outcomes of these cases, the information and federal court judge’s response to this abusive behavior are noteworthy, timeless and should be preserved.  We shouldn’t just move on from this like it’s another headline to be forgotten.

This is worth repeating:

Predatory conduct and the mindset of those in power who avoid holding perpetrators accountable make for a very dangerous combination. *If you can’t be protected from sexual assault or harassment in your place of work, where can you expect to be protected?

What allowed the entitled and predatory mindset seen in both of the above situations is pervasive and causing our society to rot from the inside out. It’s about a lack of humanity and empathy, the notion that people are there for the taking, there to be exploited and profited from in some way, no matter the cost.

After publishing this post, I dug a little further to find this AJC article from several years ago when the Waffle House “sex video” and the cross-claims were in the news; this was before the recent criminal case gained momentum. It provides added perspective which I believe is missing from the recent coverage of the criminal trial.

This is what followers of the Waffle House CEO Sex Tape “scandal” and the resulting civil and criminal cases are not hearing about:

  • In 1998, a U.S. district court judge in Texas ruled in favor of a former Waffle House personnel recruiter who alleged repeated sexual harassment at the hands of her superiors.

He, the chief executive, “… either condoned the wrongful conduct of (top Waffle House executives ) or sanctioned it in advance,” wrote the judge, who awarded former Waffle House personnel recruiter $8.1 million. The district judge’s written decision was later “vacated” by the court as part of a confidential settlement between Waffle House and the woman. (her name is redacted to keep the focus on the patterns of conduct relevant to this article)

  • The former recruiter agreed to support the woman in this present case, stating, “I think it’s important for this case that people realize that the power (he) has and the personality he has, how he could coerce someone to do what she did over all those years,” she testified. “And she, unlike I, could not just walk out and get another job.”

“You know, if a boss invites you to have sex or do sexual things, you always have to wonder what will happen if you say no,” she said.  The man who was her boss, she said, is “a bully. I find him to be someone who preys on others weaker than he is.”

As it turns out, the woman who did report repeated sexual harassment was terminated, with no record against her to justify the termination.

  • Classic victim-blaming:

“She was a jilted lover with an axe to grind,” said the lawyer for the former executive. The lawyer also stated that prior claims of sexual abuse or harassment are irrelevant in the current case.

I’ll leave you with one last thought for now: the situations featured here involve clear and compelling evidence of abuse, as well as evidence of failures by professionals and authorities to properly respond.

If such well documented abuse, exploitation and betrayal cannot lead to accountability and protection, what does this mean for victims of abuse – including children who are sexually exploited – where there is less evidence?

What other forms of misconduct, including retaliation for reporting, are being endorsed and covered up by corporations? What about by our courts?

Can you expect your own family members and children to be kept safe?

 

Sexual Harassment: Scribner v. Waffle House, Inc., 976 F. Supp. 439 (N.D. Tex. 1997) via Justia by Deb Beacham on Scribd