Female Firefighters Racially and Sexually Harassed
When Jane Draycott and Paula Keyes came into work Tuesday morning on July 7th 2009 and found racist-sexist graffiti in the women’s quarter of fire station 54. The N-word and die was written on the doors of their lockers. In addition, a picture of Draycott’s daughter who died three years ago in an accident had the word dead written on her face, and on Draycott’s face was the word die. The graffiti has been interpreted by the Houston Black Firefighter’s Association as a death threat. Draycott is white and Keyes is black, —both are females. Houston has one of the lowest numbers of female firefighters for a large city. Only 2.7 percent of the 3900 Fire Department employees are women. The data did not break down how many of those women are black.
There is a history of vandalism at the fire house 54’s women’s quarters. In the not so distance past, someone disconnected the cold water in the women’s shower in an attempt to initiate a scalding. A complaint was filed. Also, urine was found sprayed on the walls and in the sinks. None of this has happened in the male’s restroom or sleeping quarters.
Only people with FAA clearance have access to the fire house.
Sexual harassment is no stranger to the Houston Fire Department. A retired female firefighter who does not want to be identified was also sexually harassed during her tenure as a Houston firefighter.
The 12 year veteran firefighter says it isn’t easy talking about what happened to her inside a firehouse in 2002.
“I went to go to bed and there was a banana duct taped to the mattress erected up,” she said.
She didn’t file a complaint. Instead she confronted a man who worked beside her putting out fires and hoped it wouldn’t happen again. It didn’t, but months later, she says something else did.
“He was on his knees beside the couch doing his thing just in his underwear. That’s all I saw when he jumped up and jumped back into his bed,” the retired firefighter said.
She filed a complaint two years later because she was afraid of coming forward at the time.
“You got to take it [the harassment] so you can keep your job. It’s mentally abusing. It plays on you. It makes you very angry.”
This female firefighter eventually retired. She claims the firefighter who harassed her was reprimanded and has since been promoted to captain.
Some believe men have increased the sexual harassment because the Houston City Council has recently approved $60,000 for sensitivity training. It almost seems that the men feel like they have to get their licks in before sensitivity statements must be signed and filed in their personnel records. You know one of the favorite defenses that men, especially white men like to claim is, “No one told me! How did I supposed to know something we have been doing forever was wrong. I think they are picking on me because I am a man, –and white.”
And I noticed how the media did not bother to blur out Draycott’s license plates on her SUV in the video. Like fireman Bill cannot call policeman Joe and find out where she lives.