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Virginia Psychologist To Set Up Sexual Harassment Databases

October 26, 1991

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Americans have done a lot of talking lately about sexual harassment, but psychologist Sharon Lord has figured out how to do something about it. She’s setting up two computer databases.

One will store first-hand accounts from harassment victims. The other will be used to collect success stories from businesses that have coped well with unsuitable workplace behavior.

If the project works the way Lord envisions, a manager struggling with a recurring problem will be able to find out what worked elsewhere.

Eventually, ″we’ll be able to say, ‘On your particular question the person you should talk to is so-and-so in Illinois,’ ″ said Lord, of Virginia Beach, Va.

At the same time, a ″Breaking the Silence″ database would give researchers descriptions of unwelcome, threatening sexual advances that could become the basis for an unemotional, scientific examination of an extremely emotional subject.

″We want to encourage research and more importantly, educational programs,″ said Lord, who drafted the Pentagon’s sexual harassment policy during the Reagan administration and now runs a management consulting business.

She believes corporate America wants to deal with sexual harassment because to protect productivity and retain employees who might flee a hostile workplace.

A 1988 report by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board estimated that among federal government workers, sexual harassment cost $204 million in reduced productivity over two years. The report estimated that sick leave for workers who alleged sexual harassment cost taxpayers another $26 million. On top of that was the cost of losing workers to other jobs because of harassment.

Lord suspect the total annual cost of harassment costs billions of dollars each year.

″Not only is the experience debilitating to the victim, it affects the bottom line,″ she said.

Lord said she committed $10,000 of her own money to the project, feeling a need to respond to what she saw and heard during the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

″I was appalled at the level of misunderstanding, at the level of ignorance and at the very high level of fear and intimidation around this issue,″ Lord said. ″I don’t think there is anything more critical that needs to be addressed than breaking the silence and healing the wounds that have occurred.″

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EDs: The address for the database project is P.O. Box 1597, Virginia Beach, VA, 23451.

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