Sex Scandal Lurks at Grand Canyon: Report

Park Service employees describe sexual harassment on river trips
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 13, 2016 6:40 AM CST
Sex Scandal Lurks at Grand Canyon: Report
This Aug. 29, 2002, file photo, shows the Colorado River at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.   (Brian Witte)

Deep inside the Grand Canyon, on river trips that stretch for weeks, National Park Service workers sexually preyed on their female colleagues, a federal investigation found. The Department of the Interior's Inspector General's report Tuesday was prompted by a 2014 complaint accusing the Grand Canyon National Park's chain of command of mishandling complaints that trip leaders pressured female co-workers for sex, touched them inappropriately, made lewd comments, and retaliated when rejected. Thirteen current and former Grand Canyon employees filed the complaint alleging a pattern of abuse that continued for 15 years. The Inspector General's Office interviewed 80 people, 19 of whom said they had similar experiences; an NPS HR rep described a "laissez-faire" culture of "what happens on the river stays on the river" that continued even after the women formally complained.

"It was a culture of victim-blaming perpetuated by all levels of management," one woman wrote. "I repeatedly sat in meetings in which victims who had reported sexual violence were degraded and discredited." One river district employee said male employees tried to "get laid as much as possible" during river trips. Women said the men reacted in a hostile manner when rejected, including taking them to the wrong sites so that they couldn't do their work. One accused a supervisor of leaving cans of human waste outside her tent. Another said non-compliant female colleagues were denied food. A rep on Tuesday outlined a series of reforms under consideration, including requiring nightly check-ins by satellite telephone and including a supervisor on every trip. One woman who joined the 2014 complaint said excessive alcohol use is the biggest contributing factor to sexual violence on river trips; alcohol was banned last year as the report was being prepared. She called the other proposed changes trivial. (Read more National Park Service stories.)

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