Here in San Antonio, many of us have watched as the sex abuse scandal at Lackland Air Force Base has unfolded. Less than two weeks ago, Staff Sergeant Luis Walker was of course found guilty of numerous charges by a military jury and he has since been sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Walker had faced charges of rape, sexual assault and aggravated sexual contact. In the largest sex abuse scandal to hit the military in decades, more than 40 others at the Texas base are either under investigation or have been accused of some form of sexual harassment or assault. The case has shined a bright spotlight on sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the U.S. Armed Forces and it should also serve as a call to action for civilians.
While many Americans are rightfully concerned about the way women have been treated in the military, it is important to note that sexual harassment is happening in the Texas workplaces of civilians, too.
Many of the Lackland Air Force Base accusations involve instructors who allegedly used their authority over military careers to intimidate women into engaging in unwanted sexual activities.
There are two categories that sexual harassment falls under. The type described above might be qualified as "quid quo pro." Quid pro quo takes place when an employee is denied a promotion, compensation, benefits or advancement for refusing to engage in sexual activity.
The second type of harassment, which also has been alleged at Lackland, is that which leads to a hostile work environment. This might include inappropriate comments, pictures, touching or emails.
In the Lackland scandal, the first incident of sexual misconduct may have taken place as early as 2009, but the first woman to come forward did so last year. Because of the sensitive and personal nature of sexual assault and harassment, victims often face confusion or even fear and embarrassment about coming forward.
It is important that victims have advocates and that they come forward not only to stand up for their rights and receive compensation for damages, but to hold employers accountable and help ensure others will not be subjected to the same mistreatment.
Source: Reuters, "U.S. Air Force staff sergeant gets 20 years for rape, sexual assault," Jim Forsyth, July 21, 2012
- Our firm handles similar situations to the one discussed in this post. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our San Antonio Sexual Harassment page.