More Sexual Harassment

Another celebrity is in the news. On January 3, 2011, the NY Daily News posted an article about football player Brett Favre being charged with sexual harassment. Favre, the Jets and Lisa Ripi (Jets massage therapy coordinator) are all being sued by two massage therapists, Christina Scavo and Shannon O’Toole, because they claim they were dismissed after complaining about sleazy messages Favre sent trying to arrange a tryst. This event occurred at the same time Favre was accused of harassment by the Jets sideline reporter, Jenn Sterger.

The NFL opened an investigation into the Sterger incident in 2010. During this investigation reports surfaced that Favre had harassed other women. Ultimately, Favre was hit with a $50,000 fine.

Supposedly, the therapists did not immediately sue because they waited to see the results in Sterger’s situation. According to the therapists’ attorney, the equivalent of giving Favre a “slap on the wrist” (he earns that much money in five minutes of game time) left the therapists feeling that they weren’t going to get solace from the NFL or the Jets. You can find the full lawsuit here.

What is even more disconcerting is that the massage team coordinator, Ripi (an acupuncturist), knew about the rampant sexual harassment but did nothing to quell it. She also allegedly sent the therapists angry messages and stated that the therapists should have kept their complaints within the team and that the Jets would have taken care of it.

Paul M. Banks wrote an article for ChicagoNow, titled: Favre Sexual Harassment Scandal Just Beginning.  In this column he states, “But this time his mere egocentrism has crossed over into delusional hubris. …This thought process is so backward that Favre must either

  1. be the dumbest redneck alive this side of Cletus from ‘The Simpsons’.
  2. just believe that his aura, his ego, his star power is so big that he could do such moronic things without punishment or accountability.”

Football (and many professional sports) have long been linked with sexual proclivity as well as harassment. Unfortunately, the line between the two often gets blurred. Tolerating sexual harassment ultimately encourages more of it to occur. Covering it up is totally offensive and all of those who are involved in any organization that turns a blind eye to harassment should also be held accountable.

Perhaps it’s a good thing that we are witnessing more cases being filed against people for sexual harassment. It’s time to shed light on this behavior that has been occurring for a very long time, with most of it being swept under the carpet or ignored. It’s also time that we hold all the parties responsible when this happens within an organization—whether it be a place of employment or an institution such as a school.

Have you experienced sexual harassment? What are your suggestions to support therapists when a client crosses the line? What do you think schools and employers should do to create an environment where sexual harassment is not tolerated and what protocols should they follow if harassment does occur?

Originally published in WIBB (Massage Today‘s Women In Business Blog).