Des Moines, IA- After three weeks of testimony, an Iowa jury dismissed a sexual harassment case in which a prison guard accused the a maximum security prison of showing inmates sexually explicit films which
Attorney Paige Fielder told the court her client suffered major depressive order and has nightmares after her experience at the Fort Madison prison. But the jury of 4 women and 4 men sided with the state, which asserted that the behavior Kristine Sink experienced was part of working in a prison, according to ABC News.
When Sink filed her lawsuit in 2012, she alleged she was sexually harassed by inmates and when she complained, she was subjected to retaliation. She was seeking $4.5 million of her emotional distress, ABC reported.
In her lawsuit, Sink who worked for the prison for 10 years, alleged that prison administrators allowed inmates to view sexually explicit and violent films. The films were played repeatedly through the day and inmates frequently masturbated to them in the common area. Sink’s lawsuit also alleges inmates would say sexually inappropriate things to her, the New York Daily News reported.
According to the suit,prisoners were allowed to watch one particularly violent film entitled “Deranged” which includes a scene of a killer beating, raping, and skinning a woman. The prisoners, which include murderers and rapists, were allowed to watch other sexually explicit films such as, Cruel Intentions,” and “Cofey,” a movie that portrays sadism and an attempted rape.
Sink alleged that by allowing prisoners to watch these violent films, the prison was fostering a hostile environment and she suffered extreme emotional distress as a result.
“Sink repeatedly complained to four wardens during her tenure that the films were inappropriate, but they refused to stop showing them. When she would turn off a film, she was accused of insubordination,” the lawsuit states. “One supervisor actually blamed her clothing instead of the movies for the harassing behavior, despite the fact she was wearing a standard-issue uniform.”
Sink first complained about the explicit nature of the films in 2007, but nothing was done.
In a complaint letter Sink sent to the warden, she wrote, “What are we saying to the sex offenders that are already convicted of these crimes and them we provide them visual viewing to fantasize about or to act upon.” She asserted that showing sexually explicit films jeopardized the safety of staff and negated the effectiveness of sex offender treatment.
Warden John Ault, after years of complaints, finally barred the films which set of a barrage of insults and threats from inmates. Some said they would beat or kill her and another threw urine on her.
Sink was eventually forced into a different position at the prison, away from the inmates, but she believes this is punishment for her sexual harassment complaints.
Sinks case can serve as an example of how difficult it can be to prove sexual harassment. Victims must have a knowledgeable Iowa sexual harassment attorney working to prove their allegations and ensuring they secure damages for the distress they endured.