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Report: Fire Agencies Suffer High Rate Of Unreported Sexual Harassment and Discrimination

Nick Perla

Complacency and fear of retaliation are keeping victims from reporting gender discrimination and sexual harassment in wildland fire management.  KLCC’s Brian Bull reports that’s the gist of a new report released this week. 

The Eugene-based Association for Fire Ecology’s international survey found roughly a third of the 324 respondents saw incidents of sexual harassment, while a fourth directly experienced it.

Yet more than 60 percent of victims didn’t report incidents to superiors.  The AFE’s co-director, Timothy Ingalsbee, says the fire agency climate is a factor.

“It’s got a macho culture that can be oppressive to women and men," Ingalsbee tells KLCC.  "Particularly women, they face enough hazards and risk on the fire line.  They need to feel safe amongst their co-workers, and their leaders too.” 

Additionally, more than half of survey respondents observed gender discrimination while 44 percent experienced it.

Effects on victims ranged from changing jobs to mental breakdowns.

The AFE recommends a model used by the Canadian Armed Forces, that removes initial reporting from the chain of command.  

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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