The Dallas Examiner
Pandora’s box has been opened and she is angry … and it’s about time! For far too long women have been silent as men treated them like sexual objects in the workplace, in their community, in school and even at church. Meanwhile, as men have stood around and bragged about their sexual encounters, patting each other on the back; women have had to endure the burden of being harassed and not knowing who to turn to or what to do about it.
And it may seem so simple to report sexual harassment now, but it’s been a long, torturous journey. For so long – even now – women have had to weigh the consequences verses the circumstances of reporting sexual harassment. Do they stay in that situation, say something to someone in charge, a supervisor or human resources, or simply just leave?
Women who considered reporting the sexual harassment or rape have had to consider one or more of the following:
• Fear of not being believed – it’s usually his word against her word. And even worse when it is believed that the harasser is a good-looking, successful, powerful and/or wealthy man or a highly respected man that they feel could not have done such a thing.
• Fear of judgment – people may immediately consider her physical looks to determine if he would want to address her sexually. If they consider her attractive in anyway they may wonder how she was dressed, or if she was too flirty. If she tends to party on the weekend, they may consider that as well. Or maybe she dated someone in the office before, so she must be a woman of loose morals.
• Fear retaliation – if he doesn’t get fired he could make things harder on her. Co-workers could accuse her of lying and she becomes ostracized at work. If she was flirty, some people could say she was asking for it. Supervisors could make an example of her.
• Fear that the report will be ignored – absolutely nothing could happen. He doesn’t get fired and she has to continue working with him or around him everyday, empowering his actions while failing to consider the emotional impact on her.
As a result of these fears, many women have just chosen to leave the job or try to ignore it.
At first, I tried to ignore it when it was happening to me. Initially, it seemed to be innocent flirting. But when I told him that I was not interested, he persisted. And the more I asked him to stop, the more aggressive he became. I was in my early 30s at the time. He was an older man and his advances felt “dirty.” I was the quiet type and friendly to everyone. I had just made a career change and was trying to find my spot in the field. But more so, I just wanted to be able to provide a comfortable lifestyle for my son and me. But I was so close to leaving because I didn’t know what else to do. This monster was finding pleasure at my expense and I was considering giving up a career that I loved. It was then that a co-worker asked me what was going on and was able to give me advice on how to handle the situation. I handled it and it worked. But regretfully, I did not report it for many years.
For those who have never experienced sexual harassment, it may seem like something that only happens in Hollywood, but every business has the potential for sexual harassment, according to a group of experts who gathered last year during a meeting on harassment in the workplace convened by the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission.
In the past, statistics have stated that 1 in 4 working women experience sexual harassment in the workplace. However, more recent studies have shown that since many women do not report being sexually harassed, close to 1 in 2 working women have experienced sexual harassment at some level in the workplace … that’s half of all women who have worked outside the home.
It’s those brave “outcryers” that rise above the fear and demand to be heard, demand justice and demand action that have opened the door for the nationwide #MeToo campaign.
The campaign was actually started in 2006 by Tarana Burke. But it wasn’t until groups of women started calling out one man at a time publicly that it became a popular hashtag – a woman would accuse a man who’s famous or powerful of sexual misconduct, and then another woman would come out, and another woman and then another woman. Sometimes the allegations would result in a court trial other times they would make the news and eventually become history.
From Hollywood celebrities to military personnel, from corporate executives to small business employees, women are standing up and making their voices heard.
Why now? Why not?
It’s been brewing for many years. And like any pot when it boils too long, it boils over and gets on everything. At first, the boiling water only splashed on a few sexual predators. But now those men who stood on the sidelines – just as guilty as those who have been called out individually – are now looking over their shoulders as the boiling water continues to spread. From co-workers to customers, from youth workers to religious leaders, from celebrities to the president, no one seems to be too far out of its reach.
While it’s no surprise that men of power have been called out for sexual-harassment and rape, many seem shocked to find that a large group of these men are those who have been admired as leaders and mentors in their career field for many years. In fact, it’s that very power that allows those men to feel free to exploit their position in such a way.
While there is the possibility that some innocent men may be falsely accuse, the good news is the environment in the workplace will make a positive change. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it will happen. Of course that’s not to say that sexual harassment will be eliminated in the workplace entirely. After all we’re still working on racial discrimination.
Keep in mind, it’s not just in the workplace, harassment can and has taken place in our children’s schools, colleges, churches, community centers, etc. Essentially, it can happen anywhere so we must work to eliminate it everywhere. We need to keep Pandora’s box open wide. We have to continue – or start – speaking up, speaking out, calling sexual harassment what it is and reporting it!