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Serious sexual assault allegations at Bremerton shipyard

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BREMERTON, Wash. -- An employee at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard is exposing disturbing allegations of sexual assault and harassment in the workplace.

Brandon Hunt has worked at the shipyard since 2009. She said the inappropriate -- and sometimes violent -- behavior that she and other women have experienced is part of the toxic culture.

This week, she decided to release a lengthy Facebook post detailing the harassment and assault she experienced during her decade at the yard. She also included events she had seen and heard about during that time, which includes allegations of rape.

"It’s hard to put yourself out there in such a very vulnerable way," Hunt told Q13 correspondent Simone Del Rosario.

"Why do it?" Del Rosario asked.

"Because I’m not alone and my story isn’t special," she replied.

Hunt detailed an attack she personally experienced.

"I was pinned up against my desk and kissed by another coworker," she said.

She reported the incident and felt heard by the supervisor, but she said there was no discipline. In fact, she had to continue working with the person and later, she said the man was promoted.

It's not her only claim and not the only man she said attacked her.

"He waited until everybody was gone and grabbed me and smelled me and told me that I was soft," she said, grimacing. "I didn't know what to do because this is somebody I trusted."

It's all in her public Facebook post: The lewd conduct, inappropriate comments, transphobia and alleged rape.

"The good ol boy network protected him and failed her. I failed her," she wrote on the rape allegation.

It's a post that got the attention of the entire shipyard and the commander.

Upon hearing about the post and allegations, the shipyard commander, Capt. Dianna Wolfson, sent a letter to every employee. In it, she referenced Hunt's post and said, "Bad behavior will not be tolerated. To me, it's as simple as that."

She went on, "It doesn't matter if it is unintentional or just a joke. If it makes someone uncomfortable, it's not acceptable."

The letter promised that leadership would take different actions going forward and encouraged employees to speak up and support one another.

Hunt had felt compelled to share her story and empowered since she and her husband are not currently working there. Hunt is on leave because of a workplace injury to her wrist, which she said has resulted in five surgeries.

She said she spoke out because, while she has been gone, the other women at the shipyard have continued to tell her about the problems they're facing. She said felt she was finally in a position to say something and not suffer blowback.

One current employee agreed to talk to us about the toxic culture and harassment, but asked to stay anonymous, fearing speaking out could harm an upcoming promotion and other career opportunities at the shipyard.

"I've actually had to file three separate [Equal Employment Opportunity] complaints," this employee said. "There were some really tough times being around these toxic people."

This employee said two of those complaints were settled, but private punishment is not sufficient when others still think the behavior is accepted.

"There has to be some level of public accountability for the rest of the culture to see that this is actually not tolerated, that this actually is punishable and is punished," the employee said.

"I think we are in a toxic place and environment that needs to be discussed openly and honestly," Hunt said. "Things can change if we make that decision together but it can't change if we're not talking about it."

Hunt said she was partially empowered to speak by the #MeToo movement.

A Puget Sound Naval Shipyard spokesman said the alleged culture in Hunt's post is unacceptable if true and they plan to conduct an investigation. The Department of Defense and the U.S. Navy deferred all questions about the investigation to the shipyard.

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