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Questions to ask yourself
How much do you know about Sexual Harassment on a broad scale? How much do you know about it in the workplace? Have you ever experienced it? Do you know someone who has?
I hope this presentation opens your eyes up to just how prevalent of a situation this is and how many individuals are constantly faced with sexual harassment in the workplace.
What exactly is classified as “Sexual Harassment?”
As Peter Forster states, “Sexual harassment is a particularly antisocial and unacceptable form of behavior which until 15 years ago was largely unrecognized. Although a commonplace experience for working women, sexual harassment was considered a trivial issue and of only peripheral concern to employers.”
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:
Unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when (1) submission to such conduct is made either implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employments; (2) submission to, rejection of, such conduct by an individual is used as the basis of employment decisions affecting such individual; or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating and intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.
Sexual harassment . . . refers to the unwanted imposition of sexual requirements in the concept of a relationship of unequal power. Central to the concept is the use of power derived from one social sphere to lever benefits or impose deprivations in another . . . When one is sexual, the other material, cumulative sanction is particularly potent.
Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education
Sexual harassment consists of verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, imposed on the basis of sex, by an employee or agent of a recipient of federal funds that denies, limits, provides different, or conditions the provisions of aid, benefits, services, or treatment protected under Title IX.
Levels of Sexual Harassment
Gender Harassment: Generalized sexist statements and behavior that convey insulting, degrading, and/or sexist attitudes
Seductive Behavior: Unwanted, inappropriate, and offensive physical or verbal sexual advances
Sexual Bribery: Solicitation of sexual activity or other sex-linked behavior by promise of reward
Sexual Coercion: Coercion of sexual activity or other sex-linked behavior by threat of punishment
Sexual Assault: Assault and/or rape
Legal definitions and Levels Chart: Academic and Workplace sexual harassment by Michele A. Paludi and Richard B. Barickman
- “When I was around the age of 30, I worked for a company that I really loved working for. I thought that this was going to be my job forever. My boss would sometimes give me looks that made me uncomfortable, but I never thought anything of it. However, one day, I was in a meeting with two men (my boss and co-worker). My boss then said something that I will never forget. He said “…if you don’t sleep with me, I am going to fire you.” I didn’t know how to react because at first I was startled but then I became scared because I loved my job and I didn’t want to let go of it. To make matters worse, he then looked at my male colleague and said, “If you say anything about this to anyone, I will fire you to0.” I quit my job and even though it broke my heart, I knew that there was more potential for me out there in the world.” – anonymous (administrative assistant) (Perpetrator was a lawyer)
- “I am a tech entrepreneur in New York City who also happens to be 30 years old. I once received an out-of-the-blue email from a male co-worker of mine. It was one of the creepiest emails I have ever received. It said, “Take off your underwear, put it in a bag, and leave it on my desk.” -anonymous
- “I am a 25 year old bartender, so I have received a lot of degrading and inappropriate comments throughout my time working. However, there was one time that I received a comment from a male customer and it was horrifying. He said, “I know where to get some really good coke if you want to do a line off my dick.” I am still a little bit shaken up by this comment and experience” -anonymous
- “When I was younger, I always dreamed of becoming a model. I thought that it was basically my destiny. I made plans to take part in a nude photoshoot (I was desperate to model, even if it meant I was naked). When I went to the shoot, the photographer locked me in a room and said that the only way he would let me out was if I slept with him. There I was, being held against my will, naked and with someone with bad intentions. Luckily, I managed to escape without engaging in sexual activity, but it was an extremely frightful experience that I know is way too common for women” -anonymous
#MeToo in Central Florida
Jennifer Sullivan, the State Rep. (R-Mount Dora) said that she wants to empower women. Sullivan, who in 2014, became the youngest woman ever elected to the Legislature (aged 23), is sponsoring legislation that aims to create a uniform sexual-harassment policy for the state’s 116,000 employees, as well as lobbyists and people that work for companies contracted by state agencies. “I hope that this empowers women to know that their voice matters, that their voice can be heard,” said Sullivan, adding that she has been the victim of sexual harassment but declining to elaborate. “The policy is for all three branches of government to be handled in a uniform process.”
The changes being proposed are debated amid the backdrop of sex scandals that have rocked the state capitol, Tallahassee. Sen. Jeff Clemens gave up his seat back in October after reports of an extramarital affair with Devon West, a Tallahassee lobbyist. Only two months later, Sen. Jack Latvala, resigned after two misconduct investigations accusing him of groping the women that he worked with.
This legislation effort calls for training employees on laws related to sexual harassment. It also includes guidelines on romantic relationships in the workplace and requires that the accused know the accusers identity. The bill would also establish a review of sexual-harassment policies every two years, create a Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Harassment and require a survey of employee attitudes about appropriate workplace behavior every other year. The bill would also bar the use of political funds for legal defense.
“My hope is that this will bring an end to the culture of sexual harassment that up until this time has been accepted.” – Jennifer Sullivan
Why should I care?
1. We all know someone that has been a victim of sexual harassment
One in five women will be sexually harassed in their lifetime. That is roughly 10% of the global population. However, statistics can at times be meaningless, but this one is so significant that it’s hard not to translate into reality. Think of it this way: each time you hang out in a group of five, one of those people will be sexually harassed in their life. Whether we are aware of it or not, we all know a victim of sexual harassment.
2. Sexual harassment is a global pandemic
Sexual harassment is everywhere. It does not bear one geographical location, religion, race or socio-economic level. It is prevalent throughout all cultures and all locations. Across the world, women at the age between 15-44 are more at risk of getting raped than they are from getting cancer, getting into a car accident, being in war and attracting a disease such as Malaria. The UN estimated that in 2002, 150 million girls under the age of 18 suffered some form of violence. Violence against women is so prevalent and growing that it is globally the most frequent human rights abuse occurring.
3. It is a devastating crime with long term consequences
Being the victim of sexual harassment can cause a boatload of mental and physical difficulties. Not only are they devastating, they are also personal and different for each individual. The consequences extend to every area of life, from emotional trauma all the way to financial. Physical and mental health complications arise and can continue throughout the lifetime of the victim. Quality of life, health and happiness, autonomy and security are all damaged by sexual violence and harassment. The saddest part of it all is that the horrifying memories and knowledge will alway be with the victim, as hard as they try to let it go.
4. It is an abuse to human rights
“Inherent dignity”, “equal and inalienable rights”, “freedom from fear”, “the right to security of person” and protection from “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” are all enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. If this really was the standard set for human behavior, then every incident would not just be a tragedy, but also a travesty. It would be a criminal act. When it comes to sexual harassment, “the right to security of person” means very little, if anything at all. Sexual violence towards women is rarely framed in human rights terms. However, human rights are also women’s rights and we must not forget that.
5. Sexual harassment is a clear indicator of gender inequality
The single, greatest risk factor of sexual assault is being a “woman.” This problem lies within the core of the idea of gender inequality. It not only reflects this fundamental inequality, but it also perpetuates it. Any form of sexual violence against women shows an essential lack of respect for women. It fails to see that women have full and equal rights and that any sexual activity needs to take those rights into account. We are living in a culture that doesn’t value a woman’s voice, that does not listen to women and that has trouble respecting a woman’s right to choose when, where, how and with whom she engages in sexual activity. Such a culture, as we know only too well, perpetrates violence against women at alarming levels and will only grow.
Preventing Sexual Harassment at work
There is a broad list of steps we can take in order to reduce the risk of sexual harassment in the workplace. Here are just a few:
- Adopt a clear sexual harassment policy: This policy should define sexual harassment, state the consequences, set out a clear procedure for filing out sexual harassment complaints and state the actions that will be taken throughout the investigation
- Train employees: Provide training opportunities at least once a year. These opportunities should teach employees what sexual harassment is as well as go over the workplace policy when it comes to sexual harassment
- BECOME AWARE OF THE EFFECT SEXUAL HARASSMENT HAS BOTH ON INDIVIDUAL AND SOCIETY
Sexual harassment is growing at a fast rate throughout the world. It does not bear a certain geographical location, religion, race or socio-economic status. We can not change the past, but we have the power to change the future and build a world of gender equality.
“We can’t change the past, but we can look to the future, and we can – we can hold ourselves accountable, to our – not just to our – our children but to all aspects of the – the world we interact with”
Baugh, Gayle S. “On the Persistence of Sexual Harassment in the Work Place .” JSTOR [JSTOR], June 1997, www.jstor.org/stable/25072957.
Folmer, Kaitlyn. “Real Women on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 1 Dec. 2016, abcnews.go.com/US/real-women-sexual-harassment-workplace/story?id=43824138.
Forster, Peter. “Sexual Harassment at Work.” JSTOR [JSTOR], Oct. 1992, www.jstor.org/stable/29717315.
Paludi, Michele A., and Richard B. Barickman. Academic and Workplace Sexual Harassment . SUNY Press, books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=Vx4qhVPOYUUC&oi=fnd&pg=PR11&dq=Academic