BREAKING NEWS: Sexual Abuse & Harassment Suit Filed Against USC Self Described “Hot Latino Professor”
“I still can’t stop thinking about what Dr. Guerrero did to me. Time doesn’t necessarily heal that wound. I feel that by coming forward, I have done the right thing to make sure that this doesn’t happen to other students.” Victim Karissa Fenwick
“Despite USC damning investigation report they chose not to alert the faculty and students of their finding of Guerrero’s unquestionable guilt on the part of their tenured professor and instead gave this dangerous sexual predator a slap on the wrist.” Woodland Hill’s Sexual Abuse Attorney John Winer
Woodland Hills CA,—A lawsuit has been filed by Woodland Hill’s sexual abuse lawyer John Winer in Los Angeles Superior Court against USC charging that Dr. Erick Guerrero an associate professor at USC’s Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work sexually harassed and abused his 34-year-old grad student Karissa Fenwick.
When questioned by USC investigators Professor Guerrero described himself as the “Hot Latino Professor” on campus and that his students were irresistibly attracted to. Dr. Guerrero claimed to have at least eight witnesses to this. However, USC investigation found that not one of them supported his claim.
Although USC’s five-month investigation made findings that Guerrero violated their policies and acted inappropriately, he was given a “slap on the wrist” (one-semester suspension) and remains a professor.
The suit charges that by allowing him to remain as an employee, USC has ratified his conduct and has put other female students at risk of being sexually harassed and sexually assaulted by him.
Woodland Hills Sexual Abuse Attorney John Winer stated, ” Karissa Fenwick is a 34-year-old grad student who was working towards her doctorate at USC’s Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work was sexually harassed and assaulted by her professor, mentor and the man in charge of her dissertation, and thus her future career. Dr. Erik Guerrero has been in the ultimate position of power over Karissa and other young students for some seven years. After a five-month extensive investigation, USC found that Professor Guerrero indeed had violated that power by luring Ms. Fenwick into a New Orleans’s hotel room and sexually harassing and assaulting her. The same internal USC investigation determined that Dr. Guerrero then threatened to ruin Ms. Fenwick’s future at the university in an attempt to prevent her from coming forward. And despite USC damning investigation report they chose not to alert the faculty and students of their finding of Guerrero’s unquestionable guilt on the part of their tenured professor and instead gave this dangerous sexual predator a slap on the wrist.”
Dr. Guerrero victim Karissa Fenwick stated, “I still can’t stop thinking about what Dr. Guerrero did to me. Time doesn’t necessarily heal that wound. I feel that by coming forward, I have done the right thing to make sure that this doesn’t happen to other students.” Fenwick goes on to say
“After being assaulted by someone with so much power over me, it has been difficult to recover. At times, I have found it impossible to focus on my education. Because of this experience, my work on my dissertation has been stalled, and I’m worried I won’t be able to catch up enough to complete my Ph.D.”
“In a despicable act of victim shaming, in order to defend himself against Karissa’s allegations, Guerrero made up a claim that Karissa as well as other students came on to him, describing himself as the Hot Latino Professor that his students were irresistibly attracted to. He claimed to have at least 8 witnesses to this. However, not one of them supported his bogus and defamatory claim.”
Attorney John Winer goes on to say, “Karissa Fenwick reported sexual harassment and through a delayed investigation that didn’t meet California’s “prompt investigation standard” the University made a finding in Karissa Fenwick’s favor. At that point, she should have been able to return to her work while Guerrero should have been fired or at least suspended. Instead Guerrero was allowed to remain on campus while Karissa had to stay at home, her career delayed, if not destroyed.”
“The most important thing any organization, including a University can do to prevent sexual harassment is, when there is a finding of sexual harassment, to let the entire University community know that the perpetrator has been found guilty, fired or severely disciplined and that the victim has been protected. That sends a powerful message that sexual harassment will not be tolerated and a victim will not be penalized for coming forward. That is how you stamp out sexual harassment. Here USC did the opposite. Karissa Fenwick has been penalized by having to stay away from Guerrero, while he has been allowed to continue in his position and up until the filing of this lawsuit, his sexual harassment and obstruction of justice has been kept secret,”
“By delaying justice and allowing Professor Guerrero to remain at USC and appear on campus any time he wants despite findings of sexual harassment and trying to prevent Karissa from coming forward, USC has sent a terrible message to its students, faculty, administrators and alumni; if any of you come forward to report sexual harassment, the perpetrator’s life will basically remain unchanged while your life will tumble into turmoil.”
“We have filed this lawsuit because USC still doesn’t get it. You can’t give someone who you found to have sexually harassed and assaulted a student in his hotel bedroom and then tried to prevent her from coming forward a slap on the wrist and keep even that meager discipline a secret from the School community. This sends a terrible message as the circumstances inevitably leak out and rumors get started and facts get distorted. The University must send a strong message that sexual harassment will not be tolerated and victims will be protected. Since USC fumbled the opportunity to make this statement, we are filing this lawsuit.”
“USC has had serious problems recently with sexual harassment. Usually, organizational sexual harassment issues arise out of perpetrators feeling that they can get away with breaking the rules. Obviously, Guerrero felt that the rules didn’t pertain to him and that he could get away with his sexual harassment by trying to intimidate Karissa from coming forward and when that didn’t work, he could try to blame her, and when that didn’t work he is challenging the entire internal process. The only way that Karissa will receive justice is by stepping out of the internal USC system and to rely on the civil justice system to level the playing field.”
USC v. Fenwick Complaint:
A doctoral student in social work at USC was assaulted and sexually harassed by her dissertation advisor while on a school/work related trip to New Orleans. She is 34 year old Karissa Fenwick. She made an internal complaint to the University and they investigated and made findings that she was, in fact, sexually harassed and the perpetrator, Dr. Guerrero attempted to use his influence over her to get her to not make a complaint. Despite these findings, Dr. Guerrero remained employed at USC. He then challenged the findings claiming that Karissa came on to him and that he was frequently pursued by female students and that he was known as the Hot Latino Professor. Despite providing 9 supposed witnesses to these defenses, not one of the witnesses supported him. Finally, the University administered terribly light discipline of basically a suspension for one semester. The lawsuit claims that the discipline should have been far more serious—he should have been fired. This was the second time that he sexually harassed a student that we know about. Karissa has been forced to avoid campus while Dr. Guerrero continues to work for USC.
More than 30 USC doctoral students are now asking the dean from the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work to address the recent sexual harassment claims against a social work professor. They are now partnering up with Dean Marylin Flynn to confront the unspoken challenge of ending sexual misconduct and abuse of power at the university.
The group of students also said they will continue to work to advocate to administrators to reconsider the punishment against the accused professor and “develop policy recommendations to improve transparency, institutional culture, and reporting and enforcement mechanisms.”
Nearly 70 USC faculty members have signed a letter, questioning the university’s handling of a PhD student’s sexual harassment lawsuit against Social Work Professor Erick Guerrero. Students at the school of Social Work at USC came together claiming they do not feel safe.
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