Wednesday, May 28, 2008

No justice for stalking victims  

15 comments
Stalk·ing - the act or crime of willfully and repeatedly following or harassing another person in circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to fear injury or death.

Too many people don't realize the seriousness of stalking. Even if a stalker is not physically harming their victim, they can cause immense amounts of emotional harm and fear. Also, a stalking situation can often escalate to a violent crime... and why wait until that happens?

I was recently contacted by a woman who is working with Attorney Dawn V. Martin, a former Howard University Professor fighting for justice. Dawn was harassed repeatedly by a serial stalker, a homeless man named Leonard Harrison, who has been roaming universities since the 1980s, looking for his "perfect wife." Dawn went to a court, where a three-judge panel denied her justice. She then tried to get the entire court to review the panel decision, but her request was denied. She wants to take her case to the Supreme Court, with groups backing her. If any groups are willing to do so, please contact her at dvmartinlaw@yahoo.com.

The district court ruled that Harrison's stalking was not sexual harassment, because he did not touch or grope her, which is preposterous. By those same guidelines, a pervert on a train who stares at me and jerks off under his coat is not engaging in sexual harassment. Right.

Additionally, Dawn asked Howard University to implement security procedures that would stop the stalker. Their response? Deciding to "not renew" Dawn's contract, thus firing her from her position.

This is absolutely ridiculous. Why are women being punished when it is clearly the harasser who is at fault here? If Dawn does take this all the way to the Supreme Court, she could really make history and could possibly win an important victory for victims everywhere.

Visit Dawn's site to read more about her case, and if you want to offer her support, send her an e-mail. I know she would appreciate all the help she can get.

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15 comments: to “ No justice for stalking victims


  • May 29, 2008 at 5:14 PM  

    Women should not have to choose between their livelihood and their employment. Dawn V. Martin is pursuing this case so that all women may have equal rights in the work place.


  • May 29, 2008 at 6:31 PM  

    Although I am not a lawyer, I was an Executive level personnel officer for 30 years and worked closely with lawyers in many Title VII cases, including sexual harassment cases. I am at a complete loss for understanding the reasoning of all of the “learned judges” involved with this case. Gender-based stalking is a form of sexual harassment. Victims stalked in the workplace should be, or are, protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
    An employer has the duty of protecting employees from stalking whether the stalker is a fellow employee, or an intruder; the employer does not have the option of doing nothing to protect the employee. Further, establishing harassment does not require the stalker to succeed in gaining access to the intended victim to grope, sexually assault, or rape her. The gender-based stalking in and of itself constitutes sexual harassment, notwithstanding whether the intended victim failed to shout sexual harassment from rooftops.
    When the employer knows of the harassment, and not only fails to take appropriate action, but rather, after-the-fact invents a self-serving and fictitious version of events, this is all the more reprehensible.
    Clearly when the stalking is severe and pervasive, the victim, having established the facts, should as a matter of law prevail. To allow the judgment as rendered to stand is not only unjust, but sets bad precedent for other cases to come.


  • May 29, 2008 at 6:33 PM  

    In a time of increasing campus/workplace violence, women especially must feel free to bring concerns about their safety to campus/workplace administrators without having to fear repercussions or loss of their jobs. That the stalker in Ms. Martin’s case was allowed free access to campus buildings even after Ms. Martin reported him, and that Ms. Martin should lose her job after insisting on appropriate protection from campus police, is astounding. But even more frightening is the dangerous precedent set by the court in this ruling, which leaves women in the workplace without legal recourse or protection from retaliation by employers, if they insist on protection from workplace stalking/harassment by a non-employee. Not only was Ms. Martin victimized twice, but her employer’s failure to act compromised the safety of other employees as well as students, who remained unaware that a dangerous individual was known to be roaming freely about their campus.
    Sincerely,
    Yolanda, PHD
    (clinical psychologist and former professor)


  • May 29, 2008 at 6:34 PM  

    Campus security is pitifully inadequate here as well, but it is
    certainly strange that they would fire someone for pointing that out,
    especially when it is someone who felt herself to be in danger.


  • May 29, 2008 at 6:51 PM  

    Thank you so much for posting the information about my case against Howard University. Yes, I certainly do appreciate the e-mails and the support.

    I expect that your comments will be taken into account when women's and crime victims' advocacy groups, as well as the U.S. Solicitor General determine whether they will file amicus petitions/briefs in this case to urge the Supreme Court to hear it.

    I plan to do whatever I can -- and whatever it takes -- to help establish law that will prevent an employer from firing or otherwise retaliating against women who are stalking victims. Our jobs need to be protected, whether we are stalked by a stranger roaming the workplace (as I was) or by an ex-husband, as was Alexis Moore. If such law is not established by the Supreme Court, I will assist in lobbying for federal legislation to protect stalking victims (who are almost always women) from retaliation.

    We cannot survive without our jobs and we must also be able to report workplace stalking to our employers, not only for our own safety, but for the safety of others in our workplaces. In my case, the workplace was a University campus. This put students at risk as well. To force us to choose between our jobs and our safety -- as well as the safety of our co-workers and, on campuses, students -- is no choice at all.

    It is particularly disappointing that this deplorable conduct was exercised by a national University that prides itself on its civil rights legacy -- and, at the law school, no less! The civil rights greats who left this legacy would certainly be ashamed of Howard's administrators for their actions in this case.

    Fortunately, the President of the University, Patrick Swygart, who kept this case going for ten years (spending millions of dollars on ourside law firms to battle against me, primarily by myself), just resigned -- by order of Howard's Board of Trustees. "Now" is therefore the perfect time for healing and redress. I believe that Howard can again be the bastion of civil rights advocacy, but it must first "heal itself."


  • May 29, 2008 at 7:11 PM  

    I agree with Alexis, Founder and President of Suvivors in Action.

    My name is Myra Spearman and I survived being in an abusive relationship, after leaving the relationship, I was stalked at work, in my car and at home. Believe me, I know what it feels like!

    Women are the only one who have to choose between their livelihoods and their careers!!!

    Dawn V. Martin, is an established and powerful attorney and she is fighting for her right and our right to live fear-free...I support her efforts and would advise everyone to do so.

    We need to work together to change the current domestic violence laws as it pertains to workplace violence. What Dawn is doing is Historical!!!!!

    Because I survived my abuse, I created, The Weaker Vessel, Inc. which is a National On-line Database of Domestic Violence Abusers.
    Visit: www.theweakervessel.org

    Contact Dawn by her email address: dvmartinlaw@yahoo.com


  • May 29, 2008 at 9:11 PM  

    Women should should never have to be subjected to Sexual Harassment in any environment. Many times women have chosen not to speak out when such an injustice occurs in a work or social environment/situation, due to fear of retaliation of some sort.
    This is unfortunate , however it is a fact. We as women must always continue to speak out, shout out until we are heard loud and clear!
    How many men are Raped or Sexually Harassed? I would like to see those statistics in comparison to the women's.
    I also wonder how many Judges were men through the course of this case? "Aha"


  • June 1, 2008 at 10:17 PM  

    There is no excuse for a University to neglect its security procedures, especially in this day and age, with violent incidents perpetrated by disturbed individuals punctuating the news! Howard just lucked out in that far more serious consequences did not occur in this case - no thanks to their negligence!

    Of course, they did eventually avoid further disruption by the stalker - by removing his victim through dismissal from her job!

    No sane person can see this as either a just or desirable outcome or "solution" to the problem.

    It is sad that a University like Howard, with a fine reputation over the years, should commit such a shameful action, violating both the right to a safe workplace of Professor Martin, and her civil rights under the law.

    I wonder how knowledge of this disgusting lack of concern for campus safety will be regarded by other female professors - or students - considering a Howard teaching position or education? Personally, I would think more than twice before exposing myself to such a lack of concern - or adherence to its own security procedures.

    By the way, I'm not sure it has been reported - is this deranged individual still loose and casting about for a new and unwilling "wife"?

    The ridiculousness of the allegation that stalking in the mad quest for a "wife" is "not associated with gender" boggles the mind.

    The unfairness of penalizing Professor Martin, the victim of a crime, with dismissal from her position is so clear that it amazes me that the legal battle continues.

    And if they should win the case (God forbid!), and the next - or even the same - sociopath becomes more deadly, what in the world will Howard gain?

    I pray that the Supreme Court will see the importance of firmly establishing that employers may not fire anyone because they are being stalked or harrassed or threatened - and that they are required to take every possible step to provide a secure workplace for all, especially female employees.


  • June 8, 2008 at 8:56 PM  

    The act of dismissing the victim of harassment is a well-worn tactic -- whenever thee is an issue in the workplace, management in most companies will make a token resolution (so it appears to comply with the requirements in "employee handbooks" then will fire both the harassed employee and (if they had a complaint against a fellow employee) the harasser as well.

    In this case, because the victim was not tenured she was eligible to be dismissed.

    Welcome to the wonderful world of "at-will employment," and why modern management likes this state of affairs in the workplace so well.

    Those who try to defend it claim it gives the employee the choice to leave at any time, but the truth is the advantage is overwhelmingly with the employer -- to most companies, any individual employee below board level or "Chief Scientist" is interchangeable with someone else the headhunters bring in the door.

    The employee has to think about the mortgage, the medical bills and what kind of tuna they can afford this week.


  • November 9, 2008 at 8:22 PM  

    Although I posted a comment in response to the earlier story about this, I feel I must add to it here.
    The ridiculousness of the allegation that stalking in the mad quest for a "wife" is "not associated with gender" boggles the mind.
    The unfairness of penalizing Professor Martin, the victim of a crime, with dismissal from her position is so clear that it amazes me that the legal battle continues.
    I am also still at a loss to understand what Howard expects to gain by pursuing this - it would seem to be embarrassing to the University in the extreme. As I remarked in my previous comments, what woman, hearing about the refusal to protect Professor Martin on campus, would want to be associated with such an institution?
    And if they should win the case (God forbid!), and the next - or even the same - sociopath becomes more deadly, what in the world will Howard gain?
    I pray that the Supreme Court will see the importance of firmly establishing that employers may not fire anyone because they are being stalked or harassed or threatened - and that they are required to take every possible step to provide a secure workplace for all, especially female employees.


  • December 14, 2008 at 3:32 AM  

    Thank you for the comments regarding my case, Martin v. Howard Univ. and Alice Gresham Bullock, U.S. Sup. Ct. No. 08-204. I wanted to update your readers on its status and also, to fill them in on some of the details of the case. On December 12, 2008, I filed a Rule 44 Petition for Rehearing in the Supreme Court, asking the Court to reconsider my case. The National Organization for Women (NOW) and the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL), joined by other women's advocacy and anti-violence groups, filed an Amicus Curiae (friend of the Court) Brief supporting my original Petition, but the Court denied the Amici’s motion to late file it, so their arguments were not considered. I have petitioned the Court to consider their arguments and also to reconsider, in light of its pending review of Crawford v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, another case similarly alleging sexual harassment and retaliation for reporting sexual harassment. See http://www.dvmartinlaw.com/MartinvHowardU.html.

    As a law professor at Howard University, I was stalked by a delusional, homeless, serial stalker of African-American female professors, Leonard Harrison. The stalker was searching for the physical embodiment of his "fantasy," or ideal "wife" --modeled after a fictional female character, Geneva Crenshaw, in a book, And We are not Saved, written by the renowned Professor Derrick Bell. Instead of following its own security procedures to ban the stalker from campus, Howard responded to my requests for protection by refusing to renew my teaching contract. I sued Howard for sexual harassment/hostile work environment and retaliation for reporting sexual harassment, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex/gender, as well as race, color, ethnic origin and religion. Martin v. Howard University is the first to present the issue of "gender profiling" or "working while female" in the employment context. The lower courts held that I had no legal recourse against Howard University for failing to take reasonable steps to end the workplace stalking or for refusing to renew my teaching contract after I asked the Law School administration to use the University’s own Campus Security procedures to protect me – as well as other women -- from a serial campus stalker.

    I filed my case under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits harassment that is “sexual in nature” or based on gender. I argued that: 1) since 78% of stalking victims are women, stalking constitutes harassment on the basis of gender; 2) when the stalker uses “gender specific” language and criteria to select his victim, the stalking is harassment based on gender; and 3) where a stalker pursues a woman to make her his “wife,” the harassment is stalking “sexual in nature.” I am asking the Court to apply Title VII to protect women from workplace stalking and from employer retaliation for reporting stalking. Women who are doing nothing more than “working while female” should not have to choose between their jobs and their safety.


    In 1999, I set precedent in federal district court, for the D.C. Circuit, in Martin by adopting the EEOC Regulation 29 CFR 1604.11(e), holding that an employer can be held liable for the sexual harassment of an employee, by a non-employee, if the employer knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take reasonable steps to end it. Martin v. Howard University and Alice Gresham Bullock, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19516, 1999 WL 1295339, 81 FEP Cases 964 (BNA), 15 IER Cases 1587 (D.D.C. 1999). Judge Hogan identified the jury questions as: 1) whether Harrison’s harassment was severe and pervasive enough to constitute a hostile work environment; and 2) whether Howard took reasonable steps to end it. The jury agreed with me that Harrison’s harassment did create a “hostile work environment” for me and that Howard did not take reasonable steps to end it; yet the verdict was for Howard. With insufficient legal instruction from the judge, the confused jurors found that the harassment was not based on sex – and therefore, that my complaints were not “protected activity” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

    Many people have asked me how the jury could possibly have concluded that a man who pursued me to be his “wife” did not pursue me based on my gender – after all, he would not have pursued me to be his “wife” – defined as a “married woman” – if I were a male professor at Howard. He also would not have “profiled” me as “Geneva Crenshaw” if I were male, since “Geneva” is a female character. So, this issue was supposed to be the threshold, “no-brainer” that Judge Hogan had already resolved, as a matter of law, based on the undisputed facts, in his 1999 decision. Judge Hogan did not allow us to question the jury after the trial, but I believe that the determining factor was that Howard repeatedly told the jury that my claim must be defeated because I entitled her memos to then Law School Dean Alice Gresham Bullock “Security Problem on Campus” rather than “Sexual Harassment.” The case law specifically holds that a plaintiff does not need to have used the words “sexual harassment” to invoke Title VII. (I actually did initially use that term, but, as I explained at trial, after the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department characterized Harrison as a “stalker,” that is the term that I used to describe him, since the word “stalking” is, by definition, repeated and serious harassment. I asked Judge Hogan to instruct the jury that it is not necessary to use the precise words “sexual harassment” to invoke Title VII protection, using his own words from his 999 decision, but he flatly refused to provide it. Numerous courts have recognized that stalking is one of the most egregious forms of sexual harassment. Judge Hogan also refused to provide the jury with the D.C. stalking statute, which defines “stalking” as repeated harassment. Without the proper legal framework for analyzing harassment based on sex, jurors were confused into accepting Howard University’s argument that the stalker’s harassment was not sexual in nature or based on sex and that my complaints did not constitute “protected activity.”

    I believe that the Court should consider my case along with Crawford. Both Ms. Crawford and I lost their jobs shortly after reporting the harassment to our respective employers. Both of us deprived of the opportunity to prove that we lost their jobs due to retaliation for reporting the harassment. In both Crawford and Martin, the respective Circuit Courts held that we did not engage in “protected activity” because of how we reported the sexual harassment to our employers. The Supreme Court’s decision in Crawford would control the outcome of Martin. If Martin is considered as a companion case to Crawford, or supplements Crawford, the Supreme Court would provide lower courts with a more comprehensive definition of “protected activity,” whether the harasser is an employee or a non-employee in the workplace.

    January is National Stalking Awareness Month -- so it is particularly appropriate that, on January 9, 2009, the Supreme Court will consider reviewing a workplace stalking case. Coincidentally, it is also during Stalking Awareness Month that Sky Radio will be broadcasting an interview with me about the case on American Airlines, from December 16, 2008 through January 31, 2009, as one of the women highlighted in its series entitled “Salute to Women in Leadership,” featured in Time Magazine. I am also currently featured as one of "American’s Premier Lawyers,” in “The Law Business Insider which includes another radio interview discussing the case.

    In an interview with Barbara Walters, Paula Abdul directed public attention to the issue of workplace stalking, as a result of the recent suicide of a woman stalking her. Ms. Abdul alleged that her employer, American Idol, allowed a stalker on the show -- her workplace --for "entertainment value." A videotaped audition shows a contestant singing a song he had written about his desire to "stalk" Ms. Abdul. These incidents also highlight the fact that there is no federal statute that expressly protects stalking victims against employer retaliation for complaining about stalking -- or that obligates employers to take reasonable steps to keep known stalkers out of the workplace.


  • January 8, 2009 at 2:49 PM  

    Every woman in America should be demanding that this case be heard - and that Dawn Martin achieves the justice she deserves. It is not only about Dawn, however - we are all equally vulnerable to sick individuals that stalk defenseless women.

    I have not been stalked - but I've on a number of occasions been terrified by a threatening or mentally unbalanced male with whom I found myself alone. How much worse to be in that situation every minute of every day!

    There is no excuse for not protecting women from this kind of harassment, certainly none for allowing it to threaten not just their freedom of movement, privacy, personal safety, but their jobs as well!

    Yes, if the Supreme Court does not do the right thing, we should hound Congress until they do.

    Blessings,

    Liberty G


  • February 13, 2009 at 2:43 PM  

    PRESS RELEASE: February 12, 2009
    Law Offices of Dawn V. Martin, LLC e-mail: dvmartinlaw@yahoo.com

    (202) 408-7040; (703) 642-0207 website: www.dvmartinlaw.com



    TV Documentary on Federal Case Holding that a Woman can be Fired for being Stalked by a Stranger in her Workplace, or “Working while Female”



    Washington, D.C. – Martin v. Howard University and Alice Gresham Bullock, U.S. Supreme Court No. 08-204. WATCH a new television documentary, featuring esteemed leaders such as Kim Gandy (President of NOW), renowned civil rights Professor Derrick Bell and a former Howard University Security Officer, Dr. Amos Sirleaf, who all strongly support former Howard Law School Professor, Dawn Martin in her efforts to protect stalking victims against employer retaliation. Insider Exclusive website, with producer/host Steve Murphy, at http://insiderexclusive.com/martin.htm (For clearest digital viewing, download Apple quicktime 7.6 version.) Ms. Martin has also been featured on Sky Radio as part of its series on “Salute to Women in Leadership,” noted in Time Magazine and numerous radio shows.



    Martin is the first case to present the issue of "gender profiling" in the employment context -- or the "working while female" factor. The National Organization for Women (NOW) and the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL), joined by additional women’s and victims’ advocacy groups, filed an Amicus Brief in this case, stressing the need to protect stalking victims from employer retaliation. Prof. Dawn Martin was stalked taught at Howard University Law School by a delusional, homeless, serial stalker of African-American female professors, Leonard Harrison. Harrison was searching for the physical embodiment of his "fantasy" wife -- a fictional female character in a book, written by the renowned civil rights Professor, Derrick Bell. Instead of following its own security procedures to ban Harrison from campus, Howard responded to Prof. Martin’s requests for protection by refusing to renew her teaching contract. She sued Howard, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination and harassment, on the basis of sex/gender. Prof. Martin alleged that Howard permitted the stalker to harass her on the basis of her gender in her workplace. 78% of stalking victims are women. 54% of female murder victims reported their stalkers to the police before being killed by them. Prof. Martin further alleged that Howard retaliated against her by refusing to renew her teaching contract because she asked for protection from Harrison on campus.



    In 1999, the federal district court set precedent in Martin, adopting the EEOC Regulation 29 CFR 1604.11(e), holding that an employer can be held liable for the sexual harassment of an employee, by a non-employee, if the employer knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take reasonable steps to stop it. In 2006, after a trial, the jury agreed with Prof. Martin that Harrison’s harassment did create a “hostile work environment” for her and that that Howard did not take reasonable steps to end it; yet, the jury verdict was for Howard. With insufficient legal instruction from the Court, the confused jurors found that the harassment was not based on sex; Prof. Martin’s complaints were not therefore not “protected activity” under Title VII. The Supreme Court initially declined to review Martin, but nine days later, it decided Crawford v Nashville. Crawford clarified that “protected activity” under Title VII is a question of law for the Court, not a factual question for a jury. On February 9, 2009, therefore, Ms. Martin filed a motion to supplement her Petition for Rehearing, to include the law set by Crawford. Under Crawford, the jury should never have been required to decide this legal question. The Supreme Court has never addressed the issue of workplace stalking. The application of “gender profiling” to sexual harassment cases will also set precedent for racial, ethnic, religious groups in profiling harassment cases under Title VII and other EEO statutes. For more details and links to other cites discussing the case, see www.dvmartinlaw.com/MartinvHowardU.


  • July 20, 2009 at 12:54 AM  

    Dawn V. Martin, Esquire
    Law Offices of Dawn V. Martin, LLC
    1725 I Street, N.W., Suite 300
    Washington, D.C 20006
    (202) 408-7040 D.C. phone
    (703) 642-0207 home office
    (703) 642-0208 facsimile
    DVMARTINLAW@yahoo.com
    www.dvmartinlaw.com

    Specializing in employment discrimination, civil rights and tort law
    "Working for Justice in the World"


  • February 1, 2010 at 7:40 PM  

    It is absolutely ludicrous that Dawn V. Martin was fired when she was clearly victimized. Her employment should have fought for her case and safety seeing as stalking in any case would be mentally troubling and fearsome! How can any women feel safe in a world where their safety is not valued in the workplace? I hope for all women's sake that this case brings about changes in society and equality for women all over.