Did the unwelcome and insistent advances of Sgt. Christine Hertzel contribute to Officer Schindler’s suicide?
The widow of NYPD Officer Mathew Schindler, who committed suicide on February 13, 2012, has filed a lawsuit in the Queens Supreme Court alleging the suicide was precipitated by the unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances he faced from his superior officer, Sgt. Christine Hertzel at the 115th Precinct. DNAInfo.com reports,
After Schindler started at the 115th Precinct, Hertzel allegedly began demanding that he have sex with her. The lawsuit claims the two had sexual relations and Hertzel tied Schindler’s job happiness to keeping the hanky-panky going.
Hirtzel was Officer Schindler’s direct supervisor, and was in the position to control his assignments, make his schedule, and “affect the day-to-day condition of decedent’s employment,” according to the lawsuit. It also goes on to say that Schindler had informed Hertzel that “her unrelenting advances had left him depressed …[and] had caused him to contemplate suicide,” but Hirtzel was not willing to stop.
The lawsuit goes on to say that Officer Schindler understood that he would suffer “tangible detriment” in his career if he refused to submit to the sexual advances of Sgt. Hirtzel. According to DNAInfo.com, the lawsuit also claims Schindler had confronted Hertzel on the day of his suicide, telling her the sexual advances were “unwanted, repugnant and causing him psychic injury and suffering,” and he told her if they didn’t stop he was going to kill himself. The Associated Press reports,
Hirtzel refused to break of the affair but let him leave the stationhouse with his service weapon, according to the court papers. The sergeant reported the suicide threat to a captain and confessed to an affair with the officer, the papers say.
The captain then allegedly attempted “to rectify the hostile work environment and persuade him against suicide” by calling the officer.
The lawsuit does not specify what his widow, Gina, is demanding, but it does state that she believes Hertzel’s unwanted sexual advances violated her husband’s civil rights.
Although the sexual harassment may have been what finally pushed Officer Schindler to take his own life, it is important to remember that there is almost never one thing and one thing alone that drives a person to commit suicide. Many different factors play a role in such cases, and while it’s probable that the pressure and guilt of the unwanted advances and the forced sexual relationship with his supervising officer played a large part in his decision, the blame cannot be laid solely in her lap.
However, with that being said, it is vitally important that people understand that sexual harassment in the work place is not exclusively a man-on-woman crime. Women are just as capable of using their authority to control and manipulate and destroy people’s lives as men are. Unfortunately, there are fewer avenues for men to follow to make it stop, and in our culture today a man may chose not to say anything, for fear of being ridiculed or emasculated by his peers.
Do you think if this had been a case of a man harassing a woman to the point of suicide it would have received more media attention?