Normalization of Deviance of Sexual Harassment in EMS

Yesterday I was strolling about the internet reading and stumbled upon an article on a local New Jersey news website about a $195,000 civil settlement related to repeated sexual assault on a female EMT by her male “chief.” This settlement and related events were discovered through an OPRA request (non-disclosure by both parties was a requirement of the settlement). The Township’s Joint Insurance Fund paid for the settlement.

As though the events described in the court documents above were not terrible on their own- the chief is still employed by Mansfield EMS (Burlington County, NJ). Yes, he still has a job “leading” EMS providers even after violating one of his employees (on multiple occasions between 2015 and 2017) and creating a hostile work environment. As a non-profit entity I have to believe their board of directors is aware of these incidents- if not before, definitely after the lawsuit.

Perhaps the above and the normalization of deviance therein shouldn’t surprise me since many New Jersey providers I know weren’t bothered by these events or that providers were left in this man’s care even after he demonstrated his inability to provide leadership or even simple care for another human being. In the same news cycle many came to the defense of two Mohawk Ambulance EMS providers harassed by a local council woman- but, few cared to defend this EMT. Yet, we wonder why this behavior persists in our culture and why we are not respected by other public service entities- we don’t take care of each other. What we allow is what will continue.

What does this say to the citizens Mansfield EMS serves if a leader (and EMS provider) is accused of sexual assault and then the township settles (and attempts to hide these events)? Who are these citizens calling in their most vulnerable moments? Who exactly is showing up in their homes?

Relatedly, how does this “chief” still have an EMT certification? While this is a civil settlement and no criminal charges were filed, per their website NJ OEMS has previously launched investigations (and some suspensions/ revocations) of providers certifications based on providers’ behavior or in some cases charges, not convictions.

There are many excellent EMS providers in New Jersey; I have the privilege to work with a few of them. This one provider’s actions don’t reflect our mindset or beliefs- but our actions, or inactions, do. Allowing this kind of behavior in our community makes us liable. Not addressing this behavior allows the normalization of deviance of sexual assault and atmosphere of intimidation to continue.

I hope the Township of Mansfield and Mansfield EMS and NJ OEMS will do what’s right and replace this chief to protect and honor their EMS providers and their citizens. I hope other New Jersey EMS providers will stand for their colleagues if this happens to them and if need be vote with their feet (you never know if it will happen to you).

We are responsible for our profession and each other.

What we allow is what will continue.

“Chief” Lewis, we see you.

 

 

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