Sexual harassment policy as a tool II
In the January 2003 issue of AEGIS, we wrote about sexual harassment policy as a tool in the business environment. A recent case we observed indicates that in many states, with new laws dealing with domestic abuse, sexual harassment can be used for non-business purposes.
This case took place in New York City, where the man in question had a rent controlled apartment that was coveted by a neighbor. This man ran a small business from his first-floor apartment, storing product in the basement.
One day the man was moving cartons from the hallway to the basement. The woman came into the hall and started yelling about the hall being cluttered. She then picked up cartons and started throwing them around. The man grabbed her to stop her. She eventually went into her apartment and the man continued putting the cartons in the basement.
Unfortunately for our poor victim, the woman called the police to complain that she had been assaulted. The police arrived, and reasonably (albeit incorrectly) reasoned that the two neighbors might have been in a relationship, which meant that they had no choice but to arrest the man.
While he was being booked, the woman filed a restraining order. She then got into the habit of leaving her door open. Every time he entered or left the building after his release he, de jure, violate the restraining order by walking by her open door. She would call the police, and he was arrested several more times.
While it is his (and apparently his attorney’s) hope that by videoing his comings and goings, and showing that he is merely going to and from his apartment, and that she is deliberately leaving her door open simply to get him arrested, his case will be dismissed. We suspect that it is equally likely that he will be forced to leave his apartment, and that the woman will end up getting it, with the building giving it to her at a low rent to avoid negligent- action litigation.
It is clear that violence is a bad option on many levels, and should be avoided whenever possible. We, ourselves, would go to extremes to avoid violence, and indeed have on occasion followed the sage advice offered by Monty Python to “Run away! Run away!” in situations where violence might have been justified, but was avoidable.
When it is not possible, however, it is critical that a police complaint be filed. And that YOU be the one to file it first, because the person filing the first complaint is the complainant (the good guy) and the person who doesn’t file first is the defendant (the bad guy). You want to be viewed as the good guy.
Had our victim immediately called the police, rather than continuing to put away cartons, his life would not now have been turned up-side down.