Equal Rights Advocates Board member Louette Colombano was first introduced to ERA in the 1980s. As one of the first female officers at the San Francisco Police Department, she faced severe sexual harassment–even assault–in the workplace, as well as daily gender discrimination.
After 9 years, Louette spoke out publicly, blowing the whistle on SFPD over prostitution at a Police Academy graduation party. She faced swift retaliation, including threats on her life. So with ERA, on behalf of all the women in the Department who’d had enough, she sued.
Louette’s lawsuit with ERA caught widespread media attention, leading to culture change in other cities’ police departments. Shortly after the lawsuit settled, a woman police chief took over in San Francisco.
Read Louette’s story in her own words below, or watch her share her story alongside other former ERA clients in the short film “Women of Courage.”
I know firsthand what ERA’s work can do to effect lasting change in women’s lives.
As one of the first female officers in the San Francisco Police Department, I endured daily sexual harassment and discrimination on the job for years—until I reached out to ERA for help. When ERA filed suit on my behalf in 1984, we cleared a path for the professional growth and safety of policewomen everywhere.
ERA’s work is more important now than ever. Even though recently we’re in the MeToo movement, ERA’s been there from the beginning. In a time when we who speak truth to power get shut down at every turn, ERA gives a voice to those courageous enough to risk the consequences of speaking out.
When I blew the whistle on the SFPD, I came to realize just how desperate the patriarchy is to silence anyone who dares expose their privileged secrets. When Anita Hill came along in 1991, I naively thought she would be the game changer. And then came Christine Blasey Ford in 2018.
I think about all the women before me, and all those whose stories never become public. I’m reminded of Maria the janitor, Hanna the gold miner, and so many others who sacrificed everything to speak their truth. ERA was there to support these women and hold abusers responsible, just as they did for me decades ago.
ERA is the engine for change and we must be the fuel that powers them.
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