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Ex-Coast Guard member sheds light on sexual harassment issues

A young woman and former U.S. Coast Guard member spearheaded a national campaign to shed light on sexual harassment problems in the military. The 26-year-old South Florida woman quit the Coast Guard not long after her boot camp ended because, allegedly, she was the victim o sexual harassment by a superior officer. The man Chief Petty Officer she accuses of sexual harassment is currently serving jail time in a military prison for abuse of rank and status.

The conviction that led to the officer's imprisonment was not for sex crimes or sexual harassment, and this is something that the young woman is trying to change by making her story known. After she felt that the Chief Petty Officer she accused did not receive a stringent enough punishment for his alleged misconduct, she contacted her local South Florida congresswoman. The congresswoman has since launched an effort to make changes to the law, so that the threshold for rape and sexual harassment as seen by military courts is lowered and punishments are made more severe.

Problems relating to sexual harassment are prevalent throughout Florida, both in the private sector and in public sector work places, such as the military. A woman's rights group recently reported that in 2011, military servicemen and servicewomen brought forward 3,192 complaints of sexual harassment. However, the military determined that merely 1,518 of those complaints were 'actionable.' A change of law could cause the number of actionable complaints to increase.

No one should be subjected to sexual harassment while they are trying to do their job. Fortunately, victims of sexual harassment in Florida have numerous state and federal laws at their disposal. These laws can be used to hold their tormenters accountable. Victims may also be able to receive compensation for loss of employment and other types of financial or emotional injuries caused by such injustice.

Source: Sun Sentinel, "South Florida veteran's sexual harassment ordeal spurs national effort," Ben Wolford, June 24, 2013

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