Columbia Domestic Violence Shelter Settles Lawsuit over Allegations of Sexual Harassment

Nassim Benchaabane
June 19, 2011

True North, a Columbia domestic violence shelter, will pay $103,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after two of the shelter’s employees were punished in 2008 for complaining of sexual harassment.

Both women accused former executive director Leigh Voltmer of innappropiately touching staff members several times. Following the incident, the non-profit organization fired one of the women and demoted the other. Voltmer resigned and is now an executive for the United Way foundation.

True North declined to comment on the matter.

True North’s website states it is an emergency shelter providing immediate safety and services for victims of domestic and sexual violence 24 hours a day, seven days a week, confidentially and anonymously. The website also states the shelter provides counseling, outreach, community awareness and advocacy for victims of domestic and sexual violence.

True North has worked closely with the MU Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center in the past and will continue to do so, RSVP Center Coordinator Danica Wolf said. Wolf said the suit will not affect the center’s working relationship with True North.

“There should be no impact on the services our students receive,” Wolf said. “We’ll continue to work with the staff there to ensure that our students and survivors get the best service possible. We support their staff and the service they provide. We’re not worrying. We just want to make sure our survivors are served.”

Noel English, Director of the MU Equity Office, works with faculty and students who believe they may have been subjected to unfair or inequitable treatment.

“Sexual harassment is inherently contradictory to the respectful welcoming campus that we would hope to provide all students,” she said. “Secondly, because it is our obligation under the law to promptly and effectively identify and address discriminatory behavior.”

English emphasized the organization’s constant willingness to help those in need.

“We are very sensitive and responsive to allegations of sexual harassment,” she said. “I would be happy to talk to any student who believes she has been harassed – certainly to make sure that she/he is getting any counseling or other assistance that she may require.”

Aid beyond counseling is determined on a case-by-case basis, English said.

“Whether MU would have any further right or obligation to get involved in an off-campus matter would have to depend on circumstances,” she said.