The Misguided Reflex to Paper over Sexual Harassment

The Misguided Reflex to Paper over Sexual Harassment

In my morning paper today, November 13, 2018, two of the front page stories dealt with sexual abusers.

One was the Vatican’s instruction to U.S. bishops to refrain from voting on their plans to improve protection for victims of sexual abuse by the clergy. Protests are ongoing in Baltimore as the bishops meet, obey the pontiff, but restructure their agenda.

The second story focused on a physician at one of the two downtown teaching hospitals who sexually harassed, for years, a woman who wanted to advance in the field but did not want to sleep with the doctor who had control over her future. She ultimately left, and sued, and reports that the Title IX office “investigating” her claim refused to speak with any of her witnesses. The investigation concluded that, because she occasionally accepted his invitations to have a drink or dinner, she was not harassed. This despite her complaint of incessant sexting from him. Other women, including physicians, told the Baltimore Sun that they were similarly treated by this professional, and similarly went unheard. They left the university.

Losing employees who go unheard is one cost that may go unheeded. The cost of defending a sexual harassment lawsuit because of a refusal to investigate and appropriately discipline a harasser is more commonly recognized.

When the entrenched culture of an organization refuses to stop people in position of power from abusing others, there is a higher cost. Denial and secrecy lead to defections (the Catholic church knows it is losing parishioners), and bitterness. If the promise of a thorough investigation is empty, the organization will lose in many intangible ways. A good investigation can engender confidence in the goodwill of the organization. For more about investigations, see my website,

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