Dec. 19 was a dark day for journalism, when the Sun Journal published "Harassment cases cost state taxpayers nearly $2M," a story that outlined the outrageous behavior of a small number of state workers. It crossed the line when it listed the names and government employers of numerous victims of sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment is a serious and vile violation of a person's dignity and rights. It is not something taken lightly in any professional business environment and is usually dealt with swiftly and harshly. Society has grown to respect the rights and privacy of victims of sexual harassment, much in the same way as it does with the victims of other crimes and mistreatment.
While at the same time that the Sun Journal maintains a policy of protecting the names of victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, it appears to have a complete lack of compassion and respect for those that have suffered the abuse of sexual harassment.
Instead of keeping the article centered around the unacceptable financial impact of those types of incidents, it turned its focus on the unwilling victims of those acts. Had the victims in these cases even told their families, friends or co-workers of the indignities they had suffered?
Not all victims have the courage to come forward and demand that the mistreatment be stopped, but these people did. By publishing the victims' names, the Sun Journal has sent a loud and terrible message to future victims that if you step up and come forward, if you do something to stop being victimized and if you have the courage to hold those responsible accountable, then you risk the humility of having your name published in the newspaper in the interest of sensational journalism.
Those of us in law enforcement have worked for years with many social service groups to earn the trust of victims of crimes and harassment so they will come forward so we can help stop the pain and start the healing.
Single-handedly, that article set the rights and dignities of victims of sexual harassment back 20 years. While the focus in the professional business world has been on encouraging reporting of these incidents, the Sun Journal has sent a threatening message to those who might come forward in the future. If you report mistreatment, you will suffer the possible indignity of public humiliation by having your name published in the newspaper.
Shame on the Sun Journal for having stepped back into the dark ages of driving victims back into the closets.
Michael Edes, Cumberland
President, Maine State Troopers Association