Former Rape Crisis Center executive director files lawsuit claiming discrimination

Former Rape Crisis Center Executive Director files lawsuit claiming discrimination

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) -The former executive director of the Rape Crisis Center of the Coastal Empire is suing more than two dozen people tied to law enforcement and advocacy groups.

The Rape Crisis Center fired ​Kesha Gibson-Carter from her role just over a year ago. She claims that the Rape Crisis Center Board of Directors, as well as law enforcement and advocacy groups used racial discrimination and violated her First Amendment rights to push her out of her job.

The defendants say the allegations are not true.

​In addition to naming Rape Crisis Center board members and heads of victims’ advocacy groups, the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia also listed several former and current chiefs of police in Chatham County, as well as the County’s top law enforcement official, Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap. The lawsuit’s introduction divides the defendants into three groups: the RCC board members, Savannah Community Partners and the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. The suit claims these groups conspired to get rid of Gibson-Carter after she made public comments about the work being done to prevent sexual violence in the community.

“Ms. Gibson-Carter went in front of the City Council," said Mario Williams, an attorney for Ms. Gibson-Carter. "She spoke out about ineffective detection and prosecution of sexual assault.”

“I can tell you that here locally, the egregious fault on behalf of individuals in power and authority is consistent with what we are seeing play out on our national stage,” said Gibson-Carter during a December 2017 Savannah City Council meeting.

About a month after making those statements, the Savannah Community Partners delivered a letter to the RCC Board of Directors complaining that “important community relationships have become unnecessarily strained and less than productive.” Gibson-Carter’s suit calls District Attorney Meg Heap the “ring leader” who pressured others to call for Gibson-Carter’s termination after speaking out about the lack of results when it came to cracking down on sexual assault.

“Instead of applauding her for that and working, continuing to work with her to try to improve that for victims and potential victims, she essentially got rail-roaded into losing her job,” said Williams.

The suit also claims the firing was racially motivated. So now, Gibson-Carter wants her job back, and for back pay damages, wages lost since she was fired last summer.

“This isn’t a road I sought to travel," said Gibson-Carter. "Nonetheless, it’s one that’s been placed before me. And so as I have all things in my life, I’ll tackle it as it comes.”

District Attorney Meg Heap’s office provided a statement regarding the lawsuit and allegations against her and others:

"She has been served along with all the other police chiefs, service providers, the attorney for DCFS and the rape crisis board. There is no merit to the suit and (we) will rigorously defend ourselves in court.”

Since the lawsuit was filed, several defendants have also filed motions to dismiss the suit, and deny the allegations of racial discrimination and denial of Gibson-Carter’s First Amendment right.

A copy of the full lawsuit is available below.

A copy of the original lawsuit is below.

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