“He Told Me His Desk Was The Right Height To Have Sex”
(Some of the details and language in this article may be disturbing to some readers)
A longtime Johnston County Public Schools employee is breaking her silence surrounding allegations of sexual harassment. The victim is one of two women school board member Ronald Johnson has referred to in recent weeks stating she had been sexually harassed at work and school administrators reportedly failed to act or to protect her.
The victim requested her name not be published but agreed to go into some specific details about what has happened to her since 2018 while on the job for Johnston County Schools. She details two years of verbal comments and unwanted touching by a “powerful and influential man” that has caused her shame, fear, and disbelief that nothing has been done. Some of the details may cause her identity to be revealed to fellow employees, but all the information we are releasing she agreed to be disclosed.
It began with verbal statements, unwanted touching, grabbing her hand on the pretense of looking at her ring, followed by more forceful touching. As it continued, it escalated with more specific sexual comments and more frequent visits to her office.
“For the past couple of years, I have had to deal with numerous sexual advancements during my tenure with the school system by this individual,” the victim told JoCoReport this week. “I have told him to stop over and over. He continues to do it and even laughs while he is doing it. I have actually had to push him off of me and jerk away from him when he has tried to grab me.”
“At first, he would just make sexual comments to me. Then he starting doing little things like making excuses to touch me, but they would always be in a very lingering manner. He would rub my arms, grab my hands, and ask me to dance with him in my office. Then he got worse. He would come up behind me, rub my shoulders, and put his face near my neck. He would say things that made it clear he wanted to have sex with me.”
The victim said the male would go to her office almost weekly, although he had no reason to be in her office inside the Glenn Building at 501 S. Second Street in Smithfield. Sexual comments were made on a weekly basis. She says she was inappropriately touched about two dozen times. Each time the male went farther.
He Told Me His Desk Was The Right Height To Have Sex
“He told me his desk was the right height to have sex. And one time when he talked about oral sex he said, ‘I have made a lot of women c*m with my tongue.'”
“I told him that was disgusting and to stop.”
Other comments included, “I wouldn’t need Viagra with you.”
“He would always encourage me to go to his office after hours or go to his house when his wife was not in town. It has gotten to the point that I can’t be alone in a room with him without him making some type of advancement. It has been unbearable.”
The victim told her supervisor in 2018 after the first couple of incidents. “I did go to my immediate boss. They didn’t think it would be appropriate due to his connections and influence. It continued for months and finally in June 2019 I went to Mr. Johnson. I felt the board members would do something. It seems to have fallen on deaf ears.”
Johnson confirmed to JoCoReport that he spoke with the male and also informed his fellow board members last year. According to screenshots of text messages shown to us Wednesday by Mr. Johnson, his fellow board members reportedly knew of the harassment as early as August 2019. The male was asked not to be alone in the same room with the female but no further action was taken against him, or anything to protect the victim.
After being confronted by Johnson, who is a police detective with the Smithfield Police Department, the victim said the man kept going to her office even though he has no reason to be there. “He said ‘I will have his (Johnson’s) badge and have it framed and on the wall at my house.'”
“I go to work every day dreading having to see him and knowing that people in charge know what he is doing and will not stop him.”
The victim said she decided to come forward after watching WRAL-TV’s coverage of School Board Chairman Todd Sutton’s Jan. 2nd press conference on the steps of the Johnston County Courthouse. During the press conference Sutton said he was not given specific details until Dec. 3, 2019, and that he heard an audio recording on January 1st of a second female employee allegedly being sexually harassed by the same male. The victim said when Sutton questioned Johnson’s credibility on the sexual harassment and other issues she knew she had to speak out.
“I can confirm everything Mr. Johnson has said regarding the sexual harassment claims in Johnston County… I went to Mr. Johnson asking for help to make this stop. He is the only one who is not afraid of this man. Mr. Johnson has been fighting this battle for me and has not received any help.”
“Mr. Sutton said that he had heard a recording of this man harassing another woman, but still told Mr. Johnson he needed to put up or shut up. That is a slap in my face and exactly why I am afraid of coming forward because the school system obviously does not care. If you heard the recording then do something about it,” the victim said while crying during our interview.
“I am disgusted and outraged he would even make those comments! If people know who we (the harassment victims) are, it is embarrassing to our families and it would be impossible to come back to work. It should not be that way.”
The victim – a wife, mother, and active member of an area church – says she simply wanted to be left alone so she can do her job. She says Johnston County Schools failed to protect her and she fears going to work every day and possibly seeing the man. She says she is not planning a lawsuit but is now looking for another job. She said that she hopes to leave the school system, a place she wanted to continue to work until she could retire.
“You have to understand my family is number one. Even though people are beginning to suspect my identity, I can’t keep quiet any longer. I kept from going public because I don’t want to face the humiliation and retribution. One director is already making a joke about it at Glenn (Building). Johnston County is known for targeting good employees instead of helping and protecting them.”
“I felt the board members could do something. After his (Sutton’s) press conference I knew I had to leave. I don’t have any confidence they will protect me. They’ve known the truth since I went to Mr. Johnson. And Mr. Sutton is still not convinced? I wouldn’t think he would feel that way if it was someone close to him.”
Refuses to File Police Report Out of Fear
The victim said at least two, possibly three co-workers saw some of the harassment in the Glenn Building. But, she refuses to file a police report out of fear. Based on her supervisor’s comments in 2018, filing a complaint with the school system would be a waste of time. She no longer feels safe in her South Second Street office.
The last time she saw the male was just before the Christmas break. “He laughs it off and walks away. He never admits he did anything.”
The woman believes there could be more victims also afraid to come forward to authorities. She knows the second harassment victim and says her story is very similar.
“Even if they fire the man, which they will never do, I don’t want to be here.”
Asked if there was any message she would like to give Chairman Sutton and members of the school board, “Do something about it. Take action and let people know you back employees and you won’t stand for harassment. You have done nothing and you know it. That makes you just as bad as the person doing the harassing! I loved my job. Now I can’t work here anymore,” the victim said as she wiped tears away.