Employees save teenager from sexual assault

Authorities say the incident occurred in the bathroom of a California grocery store

Employees save teenager from sexual assault

Stater Bros. Markets employees and customers prevented the sexual assault of a teenager on Sunday, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

The suspect – 38-year-old Steven Magdaleno – allegedly followed a 16-year-old girl into the South Whittier grocery store’s bathroom, locked the door and attempted to assault her, authorities said.

Hearing the girl’s scream, employees and customers went to the bathroom and detained the suspect until deputies arrived to arrest him. Magdaleno has been charged with felony assault to commit rape, false imprisonment by violence and attempted escape from custody as well as a misdemeanor charge of giving false information to a police officer.

Read more: #MeToo’s impact on sexual harassment in the workplace

“It’s appalling that someone tried to sexually assault a 16-year-old girl in the middle of the day in a grocery store restroom,” Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said in a press release. “Brazen crimes like these are shocking to the entire community because the girl and her family should’ve felt safe in that space. I’m thankful to the customers and store employees who sowed bravery and courage in intervening on this victim’s behalf.”

Stater Bros. has since issued the following statement to ABC7 Eyewitness News: “Stater Bros. Markets is aware of an alleged sexual assault taking place at our Whittier location on Mulberry Dr. on Sunday, September 18, 2022. We are fully cooperating with law enforcement as they conduct their investigation. As this is an ongoing investigation, we will have no further comment at this time.”

Between fiscal years 2018 and 2021, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received a total of 98,411 charges alleging harassment under any basis and 27,291 charges alleging sexual harassment. In 2018, the EEOC received 7,609 sexual harassment charges compared to 6,696 in 2017 – an increase of 13.6% following the #MeToo movement.

You’d think there’d be a significant decrease during the COVID-19 pandemic, considering that many employees transitioned to working from home. Yet, 6,587 sexual harassment private sector charges were filed with the EEOC in fiscal year 2020. That’s only a 12% decrease from 2019, and on par with the number of charges filed annually from 2014-2017.

Despite the lack of holiday parties, sales meetings and other in-office interactions, sexual harassment between coworkers is still prevalent. More than one-third (38%) of employees have experienced harassment through email, video conferencing, chat apps or by phone, according to The 2021 State of Workplace Harassment by AllVoices, an online platform for employees to report workplace harassment. However, most people who experience harassment while working simply don’t report it, according to the EEOC.

As a result of the #MeToo movement, in which Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer and dozens of other high-profile figures in the entertainment industry were accused of sexual harassment and subsequently removed from their positions, legislation was drafted to curb such behavior in the future.

In February, Congress passed H.R. 4445 (commonly referred to as the #MeToo bill), which not only prohibits employers from requiring mandatory arbitration of claims involving allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault going forward, but also nullifies any existing policies or agreements that require those claims to be arbitrated, as well. In March, President Joe Biden signed the bill into law.

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