Wichita, KS– Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail, ranked among the top contestants in last month’s Miss America Pageant. But she isn’t just a pretty face, she also serves in the Kansas National Guard and caused quite a stir as she was the first contestant to openly display tattoos. Her service wasn’t always perfect, as she faced what a large number of women in the military face, she was sexually harassed.

Vail spoke with the Military Times after she was voted America’s Choice in the pageant held in Atlantic City.

She told the Military Times that she was the only female mechanic in the motor pool where she was subjected to verbal sexual harassment and inappropriate comments.

Vail was approached by her superiors to speak publically about her experience and use her influence to encourage all women, in the military or otherwise, to speak out about sexual harassment.

“Raise hell about it,” Vail told the Military Times. “You need to stand up for yourself because nobody’s going to do it for you. I knew even at 19 that this was unacceptable.”

She like many military women told her superior officers, but he commanding officer sided with the offending coworker. She was forced to go over her commanding officer’s head and was eventually transferred to another unit.

But so many women in the military don’t get the opportunity to transfer to another unit or get away from the person who has harassed or assaulted them. Many military women, and women in traditional workplaces for that matter, are afraid to speak out about sexual harassment or assault. They fear their superiors won’t believe their allegations or won’t do anything to punish the harasser.

Unfortunately, there fears are real and, too often, their allegations are dismissed or ignored. The military has had an especial problem with this, and have faced harsh criticism over it. The military has made changes to address the problem, but changing the atmosphere won’t be an easy task.

Having Miss Arkansas encourage others to speak out is a step in the right direction. Making the victims aware that it’s okay to speak up about harassment and assault will help usher in much needed change.

Unless you have been the victim of sexual harassment, it is difficult to understand the way a victim feels. The people who endure this behavior in the workplace suffer emotional distress, feel embarrassed and humiliated. The emotional pain can cause problem with a person’s mental and physical health.

On top of the emotional distress, victims of sexual harassment are often retaliated against. Some employers and coworkers take actions against the person who complains by reducing their hours, subjecting them to hostility, denying them raises and promotions and even worse, firing them.

No one should have to tolerate this and a Wichita sexual harassment attorney can help those who are sexually harassed speak out about the harassment and hold their employer accountable for allowing the behavior to persist and retaliating against them.