Las Vegas Sun

September 22, 2018

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Don’t tread the line: How Sin City can lead the #MeToo movement

What is the #MeToo movement?

The #MeToo movement is about many forms of sexual violence, ranging from catcalls to rape; it also aims to combat the systemic abuse of power predators use to intimidate others. While many first heard of the #MeToo movement last year after several Hollywood actresses exposed the sexism and sexual assaults they faced—many at the hands of film mogul Harvey Weinstein—the movement was launched by activist Tarana Burke in 1997, when she heard the story of a 13-year-old girl’s rape.

Gluttony, indulgence and sin—the famous perceptions of Las Vegas seem antithetical to the #MeToo movement. But as a city, we have a unique opportunity to be leaders in the campaign. We can show that the proverbial party is more fun when everybody involved is safe, respectful and respected.

“We all need to keep the conversation going, and in particular, change the dialogue with young people so they know that harassment and abuse is never OK and never something someone has to put up with for the sake of their career,” said Daniele Dreitzer, executive director of the Rape Crisis Center. “We have seen that no one will be untouchable as a perpetrator in the future. People will be held to account for their actions regardless of the position of power they may hold.”

Similarly, one local bartender who has endured harassment and groping said that if she could wave a magic wand, she’d fix one thing: “Pretty much just respect,” she said. “It’s a respectable job, and it does take skills. So respect everyone and treat everyone equally.”

When it comes to protecting workers, Las Vegas is doing a lot of things right. MGM Resorts’ anti-sexual harassment policy “prohibits any form of discrimination or harassment.” The corporation backs up its policy with programs, trainings and plans of action. The Culinary Union also strives to protect all workers. “We’ve been fighting for many, many years for women to be treated equally and have respect and dignity in our jobs,” said Secretary-Treasurer Geoconda Arguello-Kline. The union is currently in negotiations for 50,000 workers in Las Vegas. They’re pushing for “strong protections for worker safety, including safety buttons and language protecting against sexual harassment and gender discrimination,” according to a February statement. The buttons would be connected to Wi-Fi, so that when workers enter rooms, they have instant access to security if they sense danger.

In the past, victims were shamed into silence. But recent events have worked to shatter this most insidious of glass ceilings. “People know how to be quiet,” Arguello-Kline said. “It’s an issue where nobody’s going to talk about it. But the only way to fix it is to talk more about it.”

While perfection may never be possible, the movement will continue to press for a better future. “There are a lot of passionate survivors and advocates who I believe will keep this top of mind and in discussion,” said Dreitzer, of the Rape Crisis Center. “The movement made more space to discuss this issue and empower people to speak out.”

How the Strip is protecting visitors

Sexual assaults, year by year

In 2015, 76 percent of reported sexual assaults on or near the Strip happened in hotels or casinos, according to Randy Klenosky, Crime Prevention Specialist for Metro. In 2016, that number jumped to 87 percent. After the implementation of the Stay SAFE program in 2017, the number dropped to 78 percent.

She may be celebrating her 21st birthday or her best friend’s bridal shower. She may have told him she didn’t want another drink, but he insisted. She may not want to step away from her friends, but he insisted he couldn’t hear her on the crowded dance floor.

These are some of the predatory behaviors the Rape Crisis Center (RCC) and Metro Police teach hotel, casino and club employees to watch out for in order to prevent sexual assault through their free Stay SAFE program.

In 2016, the Stay SAFE program launched, focusing on the Las Vegas Strip after Metro saw a spike in sexual assaults.

“We have a lot of properties that are protecting their vulnerables,” says Randy Klenosky, Crime Prevention Specialist for Metro. “They may see a female that’s overly intoxicated, there may not be an immediate threat, but they recognize that if they let her leave their establishment or let her stay in that state, she may be victimized. So they take steps to protect her, which is to contact her, assess her for medical treatment, and if she needs it, she gets it. If she’s just too intoxicated to make contact with where she’s staying, they arrange transportation to get her to the hotel.”

Klenosky says more than 3,000 people and 60 entities on the Strip have gone through the training, including most major casino properties.

“About 90 percent of the casinos have had employees go through it,” he says. “What we find a lot of time in casinos and hotels is if they’re not security, they don’t really know what they can do it a situation like that, so this training tells them what they can do in their position, and it gives them the tools and resources on who to contact, who to reach out for and what to look for. Our goal is to make it so that people can party smart, have a good time and be safe in the hands of venues that are entertaining them.”

How are Strip properties protecting their employees? Here are a few examples

Progress with rape kits

Legislation and grants have helped Nevada chip away at its rape kit backlog, which reached almost 6,500 cases in Southern Nevada—and more than 1,100 in Northern Nevada—between 1985 and 2014.

Nearly 3,700 kits have been tested. University Medical Center is the only hospital in the Las Vegas Valley that has a sexual assault nurse examination program, or SANE. These nurses collect rape kit evidence.

• MGM Resorts: “MGM Resorts policies prohibit any form of discrimination or harassment, and expressly prohibit any form of sexual harassment. We have multiple policies and programs in place to educate and guard against workplace misconduct, including regular mandatory training for employees and managers. MGM Resorts policies also provide multiple avenues for employees to report any concerns about discrimination or harassment, including reports to our ethics hotline, to management and to Human Resources. If allegations of discrimination or harassment are reported, we immediately initiate an investigation and take remedial action where appropriate.”

• Wynn Resorts: “Wynn Resorts is committed to operating with the highest ethical standards and maintaining a safe and respectful culture that has made Wynn Resorts the employer of choice for 25,000 employees worldwide. The company requires all employees to receive annual anti-harassment training, with no exceptions. All of our resorts have multiple channels for employees to report misconduct without fear of retaliation, which can be done anonymously, including an independent and anonymous hotline that can be reached at 1-866-204-9791 or [email protected]. Employees are also encouraged to call Human Resources, or speak to any member of management they feel comfortable with, to report instances of harassment.

Additionally, we have taken measures to improve gender equality and foster a culture of mutual respect. The company has launched a new Culture and Community Department, which supports diversity and inclusion, gender equality, and fair treatment in the workplace. ...

A special committee of our board of directors is conducting an investigation with the assistance of outside counsel into allegations regarding Steve Wynn and reviewing Wynn Resorts’ internal policies and procedures. At the conclusion of the investigation, the board and our new CEO, Matt Maddox, will act quickly to address the findings of the investigation and any recommendations made by outside counsel. Current and former employees with information can anonymously email

[email protected].” — statement by Michael Weaver, spokesman for Wynn Resorts

• Caesars Entertainment: “As part of our new employee onboarding process, each team member is educated on our harassment-free policy and our commitment to a harassment-free workplace. Our policies and training curriculum are updated regularly and all supervisors and managers must successfully complete anti-harassment training on an annual basis,” Jen Forkish, the vice president of Corporate Communications at Caesars Entertainment Corp., said in a statement. “Alleged violations may be reported through multiple means, including to the team member’s supervisor, the Human Resources department and the 24/7 anonymous ethics and compliance hotline.”

• Las Vegas Sands Corp.: “The personal safety and health of each team member is of the utmost importance to Las Vegas Sands. We respect all of our team members, and per our team member code of conduct, our team members are expected to act professional at all times. Maintaining a work environment free of discrimination and harassment continues to be our guiding principle. Team members are encouraged to report harassment of any kind through our open communication policy or via our anonymous harassment hotline. Retaliation for reporting is never tolerated.”