By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
Donna Dunlap just wanted to work.
She just wanted to go to a job each day, do what was asked of her, earn enough money to support herself and family and then go home. Maybe a periodic raise, maybe someone could toss an “atta girl” her way.
But that’s it. That’s all she wanted. Which, in the grand scheme of this world, isn’t asking a whole helluva lot.
What she got instead was a nightmare.
According to court records first reported by APR’s Bill Britt on Tuesday, Dunlap was subjected to unimaginable sexual harassment. Nasty, awful things were said to her on a near-daily basis by a man who outranked her, an assistant district attorney named Byron Waldrop.
This was more than a decade ago, long before the current #metoo movement and the appropriate shift in mindset that has accompanied it.
Donna Dunlap didn’t have a hashtag or the guaranteed benefit of the doubt when she made her complaints. She didn’t have a public that was interested and supportive. She didn’t have HR departments living in fear.
And so, what happened to Dunlap is the very reason there is a #metoo movement today.
She got the shaft.
The good ol’ boy, “aw shucks, that’s just ol’ Byron foolin’ around a little” network went to work on ignoring and diminishing Dunlap’s claims.
Until, one day, trapped in Waldrop’s office, his door locked and with no way to escape, Dunlap, then just in her early 20s, was physically attacked by Waldrop. She describes in vivid detail in court records — court records which contain undisputed facts, according to the judge, about what occurred during the attack itself — how Waldrop was groping her, his hand inside her shirt and reaching down her pants. She couldn’t get him off of her, and ended up screaming at the top of her lungs until she could break free.
That happened in the DA’s office in Marshall County.
It was duly reported. No one disputed the facts of what occurred.
A few weeks after the incident, the Marshall County DA, having promised Dunlap that he’d take care of the problem, resigned for other reasons. The new DA, Steve Marshall, who is now the state’s Attorney General and in the process of running for a full term in that office, allegedly made the same promise.
What Marshall did instead is why women from one end of the country to the other are fed up: He punished Dunlap.
Her office was moved to the basement, where she was all alone.
She works in the DA’s restitution division, which means she collects money from convicted criminals — money they don’t want to pay. Ordinarily, such a position would have an armed guard. Hers suddenly vanished.
Her job became a living hell.
Every single day was filled with fear.
In the meantime, good ol’ Waldrop went on as though nothing had happened. He continued as an ADA and was eventually appointed to be a judge in Guntersville.
Dunlap tried every possible avenue to find relief. She followed the chain of command. She tried going through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She filed an official harassment complaint in federal court.
And they just good-ol-boy’d the hell out of her.
The judge, after acknowledging that a vicious attack occurred, said he couldn’t find against Marshall in the case because, hey, Marshall had tried to keep Dunlap and Waldrop separated while at work. And on top of that, there was no official policy in the office for this sort of thing.
And no, I’m not making that up.
This is what life has been like for far too many around the country, and particularly in backwoods little towns where men have all the power and look out for each other.
Women who have only wanted to go to work and be left the hell alone have instead endured absolute terror and physical assault and disgusting propositions.
If at any point in this #metoo movement, you start to wonder why women seem to be so angry, remember Donna Dunlap’s story.