It seems like that the subject of sexual harassment is being spoken about so loudly in organizations and in social media that we would expect effective restraint and a significant decrease in incidences. The truth however is that there are still many women who face sexual harassment or bullying in the work place and are not able to get the help and support they deserve. The statistics on this can never be truly authentic because of the large number who are still silent.
In several situations bosses or colleagues grant favours to women in terms of time flexibility or career opportunities in return of sexual engagement. In a scenario where the woman concerned objects or seems likely to escalate, she is faced with threats or such a hostile environment at the workplace that it causes immense social, mental, and psychological distress. And let’s not forget the social stigma attached to speaking up against such behaviour. Often women are still being blamed for “bringing it on upon themselves” due to dressing style or being too friendly.
I still find a lot of women who are confused about the cases that could be reported. It is important for them to know that direct actions such as inappropriate sounds, patting, teasing, prolonged staring etc, and indirect actions such as speaking about or general comments in the vicinity of a woman to make her uncomfortable, all can be reported.
Whether you call it confusion or blame it on social and cultural influences there are still a large number of women who are not reporting subtle or overt unwanted sexual advances. In some parts of the world women are more forthright and take action but in many other places especially in some Asian cultures the fear of social taboo and the blame coming back to them is very large. In these places women also fear being held back from the right to education and employment if they report such behaviour. Another prevalent situation is the role that position and power plays, where silence and ignoring the issue is assumed as acceptance or weakness whereas the real reasons maybe fear of loss of employment or reputation.
Policies and laws can only help to the extent of providing legislations. Using the regulations to our benefit is something that needs immediate and urgent attention. It is, therefore, imperative that everyone knows how to identify, act, and react in a situation that may present itself.
It would make a difference if you share stories and strategies to inspire people to take appropriate action instead of suffering in silence. Situations can be typical or unique. The stories could be about women or men on the receiving end of harassment, about the cost people had to pay for reporting it, or about unfair or wrong verdicts or it could be about dishonest allegations.
The voices need to be louder still, to nudge those sitting on the fence with endless internal dialogues on whether or not to speak up.
Let’s get started!!!
We want to hear your stories. Please email Sheherazade BenAmar SBenAmar@futureworkinstitute.com and tell us what’s happened to you and your thoughts on this important issue.