Universities grappling with sexual harassment complaints amid #metoo movement
BATON ROUGE- A state organization tracking sexual harassment complaints said the numbers are up at universities across Louisiana.
In Baton Rouge, LSU and Southern University are both handling complaints of sexual harassment as they come in. Since the #metoo movement began one year ago, the WBRZ Investigative Unit found LSU logged 16 complaints. Of those, 12 resulted in discipline. At Southern University, 26 complaints were filed and 15 resulted in disciplinary action.
The Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault (LAFASA) said there's a nationwide epidemic. The organization said in our state there has been an increase of reports on campus. Ironically, LAFASA said the more complaints a university has, the better.
"It really shows the higher the number, the university and institution is committed of creating a cultural change," Joseph Canaria with LAFASA said. "Students feel they can come forward and the school will take them seriously."
Canaria works with universities to help craft sexual harassment policies. Canaria said many alleged victims have felt silenced until now.
"As a whole, as an overall trend, our sexual assault centers have seen an uptick in calls and services provided," Canaria said. "Survivors feel as though everyone else can do it. So can I. People feel safe and I can too. This is really a great thing."
Linda Crawford recently lodged a complaint at Southern University. She has worked for the university for over 40 years. Crawford claims an employee in a supervisory role approached her at a faculty meeting two months ago and inappropriately touched her. Immediately after the incident, Crawford said she filed complaints with the police chief, human resources and sent notices to the board of supervisors.
"He sexually harassed me by groping me and trying to kiss me and kept making a statement saying, 'I want people to see this,'" Crawford recalled.
Southern told WBRZ it has a zero-tolerance policy for any allegations of sexual harassment. The university said their investigation concluded and actions have been taken accordingly, but could not comment further because the issue was a personnel matter.
"They say they have no tolerance," Crawford said. "Act like they have no tolerance if it calls for removal of the individual remove the individual. If it calls for suspension suspend him. If it calls for criminal prosecution then do so."
LAFASA said schools have 60 days to investigate once a complaint comes in. http://www.lafasa.org/main/sexual_assault_centers
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