Jessica Dorrell may not be an innocent victim in this whole sordid Bobby Petrino affair, but she deserves more sympathy and understanding than people are giving her. If not sympathy, then they should at least stop immediately jumping to conclusions about her relationship with Petrino. If the current actions of the university are any indication, there's a lot more going on here than we know. Bobby Petrino was fired for lying about the relationship and misleading the university, as well he deserves. Josh Morgan, Dorrell's presumed ex-fiance, has also left his job as director of swimming and diving operations -- no word on whether he left voluntarily or was fired for some mysterious reason.
But as of this point in time, Dorrell still has her job as student-athlete development coordinator of the football program. This can only mean one thing ...
Dorrell's role in the scandal is not cut-and-dried -- from either an ethical or legal point of view. Word has it that Dorrell, who has gone into "safe mode" and is not even returning calls to her friends and family, has hired a lawyer and might now sue the university for sexual harassment.
Surely that's one of the reasons the university has not fired Dorrell already. Apparently under Arkansas law, someone can be sexually harassed even when the relationship and the sex is consensual, as long as other factors are at play.
Bobby Petrino was clearly in a power position over Dorrell, being the football god he was, her boss, and also being twice her age. He hired her on his staff, out of several other candidates, under the illicit guise of their relationship. He gave her $20,000 as a "gift."
Sure, Dorrell accepted and went willingly along with all of it -- but who knows why. Maybe it was more about the relationship than the money or the job -- did anyone consider that Dorrell might have been in love with him? Who knows what Petrino told her or promised her. Perhaps the lavish gifts and promotion -- and her engagement -- were all concessions for a life she knew she would never have with a married family man. She is 25, after all. Women that age are known to be impressionable and naive.
While everyone can argue to death who is more at fault for the relationship, ultimately it's the university that's responsible for letting it happen and for the fallout, and Dorrell's lawyer undoubtedly knows that. Fire Dorrell and they are almost guaranteed a lawsuit, and this whole mess drags on even longer. Right now all the players are weighing their cards, waiting for the other to make the first move before they make theirs.
Was it sexual harassment? Legally and technically -- probably. But is it really really? That all depends on Jessica Dorrell. It's her move now. Will she try to play the victim and sue, foolishly thinking this could save even a shred of her reputation and dignity? Or will she just let it lie, hope it goes away, and somehow try to make a new life for herself, big lesson learned. This game is far from over yet.
Was Jessica Dorrell sexually harassed by Coach Petrino and should she sue the university over it? Will this help her?
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