Portal: Police to start investigation into national opera harassment case

Estonian National Opera (Rahvusooper) director Aivar Mäe.
Estonian National Opera (Rahvusooper) director Aivar Mäe. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

On Monday, allegations of workplace sexual harassment against the director of the Estonian National Opera (Rahvusooper) were made through the media. The police is now calling for women who experienced harassment to step forward so an investigation can begin.

ERR News wrote on Monday around a dozen current and former women employees at the National Opera have made allegations workplace sexual harassment against Aivar Mäe, director of the Estonian National Opera.

An article published in investigative weekly Eesti Ekspress (link in Estonian) contains detailed descriptions from several women, all of whom remained anonymous, who say they were harassed either verbally, which could include jokes intended to put them down publicly, or physically.

Mäe initially denied the allegations but eventually apologized on Wednesday: "I sincerely apologize to the people who have been negatively affected by this and who I have inadvertently hurt."

He added: "There has never been anything deliberately malicious about my behavior. I have never wanted to humiliate anyone or make them feel unworthy. I apologize to the people who live with me, and who I have caused concern for in recent days.

"What happened this week has made me re-evaluate my surroundings and look deep within myself. I understand that going forward I have to control my natural joviality more than I had before, and evaluate and sense the feelings of my colleagues, friends and relatives around me more attentively than before. I will certainly do this."

Jelena Mirošnitšenko, Police and Border Guard (PPA) North Prefecture official, told news portal Delfi (link in Estonian): "In the time that the article has been published, nobody has turned to the police with information about it yet. We understand that emotionally, we're dealing with very difficult experiences but we encourage everyone who feels they have been wronged to turn to the police. We have forwarded a phone number through the author of the article so the women can tell their story and ask for advice."

Mirošnitšenko added women sometimes fear going to the police in cases such as this because they think their names will go public. "The police will not disclose anyone's information."

She concluded: "We want to help the women who talked about workplace harassment in the article. We ask everyone who was part of the episodes mentioned in the article, or witnesses, to go to the police as soon as possible."

The board of Estonia Theater will meet on Friday to discuss the allegations made against Mäe. Arne Mikk, member of the board told Delfi on Wednesday that Mäe has a lot of support, but a final decision will be made on Friday.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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