Mon | Oct 15, 2018

Sandy's sorrow - Municipal corporation employee quits after no action is taken against the co-worker she says tried to rape her

Published:Sunday | May 6, 2018 | 12:00 AMJanet Silvera

WESTERN BUREAU:

For 24-year-old Sandy Davos*, it was a day she will never forget.

What should have been a routine visit to the restroom at her workplace at the Hanover Municipal Corporation ended with what she alleges was a brazen attempt to rape her by a male co-worker.

"It was a Thursday evening, the 28th of December 2017 to be exact, before leaving work when the unthinkable happened," Davos told The Sunday Gleaner.

"I went into the bathroom, where I was alone with my thoughts when I heard the buzzer ringing, signalling that someone had entered. Even though the bathrooms on the lower level in the building are unisex, I didn't give it much thought and was not the least bit perturbed."

Davos said she was shocked to hear her name being called by a male co-worker, who, only minutes earlier, she had left outside to hold her handbag.

"As I stepped out of the stall, there he was to greet me, by pushing me back in, where he started to tug at my pants. In the ensuing struggle, he managed to pull my pants down."

Davos said that even though she was stern in her refusal of his sexual advances, it didn't deter him from grabbing her leg and forcibly placing her hand on his erect penis. She said he tried repeatedly to get her into a position where he could have sex with her.

"Even when I pushed him off and pulled up my pants, he still didn't get the message," said the still traumatised Davos.

"At one point, he lifted my leg and wrapped it around his waist. My hands were also hurting, and I realised that fighting him would have been a lost cause. I then tried a different tactic by asking him if he wanted to see a naked picture of me on my phone, to which he answered yes."

Davos said it was while pretending to reach for her phone that she seized the opportunity to make a hasty retreat from the stall and the building.

According to Davos, she was relieved that he didn't follow her outside as she made her way home to try to make sense of an ordeal that had no ready-made answers.

"He was somebody I considered a friend," she said, her voice now breaking. "I have never given him any reason to think that I was even remotely interested in him in an intimate way or did I ever believe he was capable of that kind of despicable behaviour."

Davos made a report to the police and her superiors at the Hanover Municipal Corporation, including the chief executive officer and the human resource (HR) director.

"I made a call the same night to my supervisor," she added. "A meeting was arranged by way of a three-way conversation with the male co-worker and the HR director in which he admitted to the assault. He also tried to justify his actions by saying that he had immediately stopped after it was clear I wasn't interested," said Davos.

She added that a face-to-face meeting was then suggested, and the man, who holds an influential position in the municipal body, started begging for the incident to not go any further.

 

KEPT QUIET

 

Davos said that she was disturbed that it took a full week after the incident for her to get a hearing with the CEO, adding that she had the impression that some persons wanted to keep the situation hush-hush.

"They started telling me about staff orders and all the things that would make the process difficult," said Davos.

"They even told me that my request of not wanting him to come into my office again could not be entertained until the process was complete."

Davos has since made the decision to quit her job as the ordeal has taken its toll and made her continued stay there untenable.

When our news team contacted her then supervisor, who was transferred recently, she claimed that Davos' refusal to put her ordeal in writing has caused the alleged attacker to remain on the job.

"The issue is, we had told her to put it, in writing, but because she did not want persons to know about it she refused to," said the supervisor as she added that her hands were tied in the absence of a letter of complaint.

According to the supervisor, the CEO at the council met with the accused, but she is not privy to what was discussed. Efforts to reach the CEO, David Gardner, have so far been unsuccessful.

"It is not like we can just get up and fire him. We would have to send something in writing to the Service Commission," she reiterated.

But Davos remains angry, describing the argument as complete nonsense. "The Government needs to fix that. Something so egregious should be treated with sensitivity. There is nothing to say he needs to be suspended for this act."

She argued that cases of sexual harassment should be treated delicately, and there should be a special board that addresses these matters and treats them in a timely way, urgently, and discreetly.

Davos said that she refused to put her attack in writing because she did not want the details to be shared with other members of staff. But now, she wants everyone to know so that actions can be taken to protect other women.

"I am speaking out because people need to know that these are the kind of things that are happening in the workplace and that there are predators out there living under the guise of being decent people. In this era of the 'Me Too Movement,' people need to know what is indeed happening," said Davos.

"I came out with the story because I have all my receipts and chose to present my case as a fact, not leaving it to the speculations of my co-workers," declared Davos as she added her voice to several other Jamaicans calling for stronger laws to deal with sexual harassment.

The long-promised Sexual Harassment Bill is slated to the tabled in Parliament this year.

* Name changed on request.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com