A couple of days ago I posted a status on Facebook™ about a women at my workplace who has been being sexually harassment and was on one occasional sexually assaulted physically by a superior within the company. I posted this primarily because I believe that it is pretty grime that she almost did not report it because she was worried about potential backlash that might, in her opinion, put her job at risk. It came to the point that she no longer felt entirely safe, let alone comfortable.
Has her job been put at risk? I highly doubt it but still remains to be seen. The important thing is she felt that it might jeopardise her position within the company because she was scared how her colleagues and managers might react and most importantly how the offender might react. This fear, founded in reality or not, is very real and it prevents people like this lady coming forward and standing up for themselves.
My second motivation for posting my little update, and in some ways the most important reason, was because I have friends and acquaintances who believe that sexual harassment within the work place is not an issue because it is not an everyday occurrence. I believe they are wrong, it can be an everyday occurrence, some people will experience it multiple time in their life and some people will never come across it at all.
Now moving onto my point, after posting this I was sent the most well meaning message from a work colleague essentially telling me to mind my own business because it does not directly impact me and, I quote, I should ‘keep my head down’.
Fair, fair spreading rumour around the office is not the wisest or nicest of ideas, and as they say ” You stick your neck out, you are asking to lose your head”.
I’m not entirely sure I agree, in fact I’m not entirely sure I agree with the principle at all. I believe discussing these issues is highly important or at the very least should not be taboo, and to back up dehumanised and conservative statistics with personal experience, not that antidote cannot be faulty or just down right dangerous but it lends a face to something that not everyone experiences and could be excused for not considering relevant to their lives.
I have been sexually assaulted on multiple occasions to varying degrees, and it is very difficult to know what to do and how to react. A simple part of you just wants to smack the offender in the face and teach him a lesson but what lesson will be learnt. Violence is not the simple answer because it can so easily be used again you. Instead of anger I feel fear, embarrassment and shame. As the ‘victim’ this is not acceptable. We have every right to stand up for ourselves but it is sometimes difficult to know how and it is not guaranteed that we will be supported.
As my second point on the original post goes on to discuss but skims around, even though she was being supported and taken seriously, her manager (who was being less than subtle shouter her complaint across the break room within ear shot of multiple colleagues) seemed more interesting in reassuring himself that, for her sake he hadn’t been making her feel uncomfortable with his own ‘banter’ but ultimately that he was a good person. Understandable perhaps but she might have preferred not to have him telling her so many times about how much of a ‘great guy’ the man who assaulted her is. I think we all agree that he isn’t a Disney villain (or Walt Disney himself) but in this instance as we are focusing on his treatment of her , how amusing he is down the pub with the lads might not be entirely relevant.
The stories of how much of a laugh he is, even though the manager is trying to be supportive, is just going someway to reaffirm the fear of not only hierarchical bureaucratic position within the company but also social position within the working entity as a society or social group.
This is not a situation I am going to get any further involved in, she wants to try to keep it quiet amongst per colleagues so I doubt she would appreciate me taking a front row seat in her personal battle I stand by believing it is very important not to pretend that such issues do not exist and are not relevant to the lives of the majority of people regardless of whether or not they have first hand experience. Every man has a women in their lives: mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, every women has the same. That’s why I think we owe it to yourself and the people we love not to play pretend or feels as if there is nothing we can do about it, we can do a lot by simple talking.
Like in the plot of every film or video game, surely these characters would get more stuff done if they simple talk to each other.