This is part one of a two-part series outlining America’s war on sexual harassment in the workplace.
Growing up a hungry, emotionally abused child who both witnessed and experienced sexual harassment, I thought unwarranted sexual advances were commonplace. When the Illinois State Police came crashing through our door in 1979, Child Services in tow, I thought we’d done something wrong.
When my sister and I arrived at the Glendale Heights, Illinois Police Department, the policeman looked past our undernourished frames to describe everything we’d been through as documented by one Child Services worker I owe my life to.
Thirty six years removed from that harrowing experience, I’m penning this article during a time when sexual harassment has increased in frequency – once every 98 seconds – and has now moved into the major media outlets, and the silver screen.
The #metoo hashtag rings louder than before in the ears of victims as America’s newest weapon of mass destruction touches our workplace: sex.
Sexual Harassment Destroys Any Workforce
You’re reading this after America’s most renowned morning news host – Matt Lauer – was removed from The Today Show for inappropriate workplace behavior. Harvey Weinstein, another alleged perpetrator of rape and sexual harassment, could very well be indicted like Bill Cosby. A Warner Brothers producer. Bill O’Reilly. Charlie Rose. The list, much like the problem, is spiraling out of control.
Not according to President Trump, who spoke nothing of the victim while slipping in yet another dig into ‘fake news’ during this:
The View posted a status update on Twitter regarding the Matt Lauer incident. Seemed more sentiment was going around regarding ratings and defending a fallen colleague than praising the victim’s bravery or urging others to immediately come forward.
Even sicker, the absconding founder of Wikileaks turned this heinous event into a contest:
Military. Nursing Homes. Sexual Harassment Won’t Discriminate.
Victims, many times coerced through bribery or too scared to step forward, find themselves indicted by society for stepping forward.
Cat calls. Innuendos. Purposely grazing a victim’s genitals or buttocks in passing. With only 180 days to file charges according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, single parents – even primary family breadwinners – often hide these unwarranted advances to protect their paycheck. Moreover, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act applies to workplaces over 15 people. Where does that leave the small business workers?
More importantly, when did four (or more) years of college debt suddenly become a license to pervert our workplaces?
SAPRO, A DOD commissioned office dealing solely in military sexual harassment, spent $4.4 million studying sexual assault cases between 2016-17. In 2016, 6,172 reports were filed with the office, an increase of 1.5%. Of those, 778 were civilians, meaning innocent civilians were verbally or physically abused by servicemen and women on base. Overall, SAPRO estimates 14,600 sexual assaults occurred in 2016, down roughly 6,000 from 2014. (Link to full report is here.)
Defenders of freedom aren’t exempt from victimizing, or becoming victims of sexual harassment. Nor are state workers.
According to CBS 12 in West Palm Beach, State employees in Florida have filed 300 cases of various sexual harassment over 30 years, with the government doling out $11 million during that period. That doesn’t include Sen. Jack Latvala, who’s currently being investigated for allegations of sexual abuse.
Let’s not forget nursing homes, either. Recently, an 87-year old nun alleges she was raped where our senior citizens should feel the safest – structured care.
Prisons. Day care facilities. Young, old, disabled or in power – sexual assault will find you.
Question is, will you be ready?
I wasn’t 36 years ago.
Are Workplace Standards Too Lax?
Foretelling potential sexual harassment cases isn’t something job interviewers specialize in. Matt Lauer (et al) could have been a serial pervert in college or high school; NBC was none the wiser when they offered him a handsome payday to structure what is now America’s most popular morning show.
Did you sign sexual harassment papers before starting your job? Were sexual assault video tapes presented to new hires to foster healthier workplaces? In many cases, both answers will be no. This calls to question whether proper measures are put in place to promote workplace safety and healthy coworker relationships.
Men can claim ‘loose standards of dress code send off the wrong signal’. Women can complain men wear too tight of clothing. These and other workplace concerns should force employers to formulate standards that include anonymous methods of reporting sexual harassment, pre-employment education and warnings to those potential perpetrators. More importantly, it should be constantly enforced that no assault – verbal or physical – will be tolerated.
Laws, too, are far too lax in many states. In my opinion, statue of limitations should be eliminated where even the smallest case of sexual wrongdoing is concerned. Business should find more creative ways to promote brands that eliminate the sex sells mantra.
Because if you’re selling products based off the sexiness of the woman, you’re inadvertently assaulting her innocence. We’ll get to that in Part II.