Readers of this blog may be familiar with the lawsuit filed by sportscaster Erin Andrews after being stalked and recorded without her knowledge in a hotel room. Years after the incident, Andrews finally received some good news when a jury awarded her $55 million in damages, to be paid by the hotel where the incident occurred and the man who recorded her.
As satisfying as this resolution may be, there is often much more to these types of sexual harassment cases than money. Men and women who file these types of claims know that money cannot undo the emotional, physical, sexual and financial strain they have endured, but it does serve as a way to assign accountability. Legal action can also help in another important way: it can help others who have been victims of the same situation feel comfortable coming forward with their own stories.
For instance, this recent article in Sports Illustrated examined this issue of harassment and safety for female sportscasters. Among the women interviewed, stories of fear and having to take extra precautions while staying in hotels were common.
While none of the women interviewed took legal action after their own harassing, uncomfortable or frightening encounters, the fact that their stories are being told in light of Andrews' situation is important.
Being sexually harassed can make a person feel isolated, embarrassed, scared and helpless which makes it an enormous challenge to speak up about the mistreatment. This can be especially true when it occurs on the job and in an industry that is typically dominated by people of the opposite sex.
But when someone does take control of their situation and pursue the accountability and closure they deserve thought legal action, it can make it easier for other victims to feel supported and strong enough to report similar behaviors.
What we hope readers take away from this post is the fact that sexual harassment claims are not just about money, though compensation for damages can be crucial. They are also about protecting your rights, protecting yourself and calling out a situation that is unlawful and dangerous that others may be struggling with as well.