America is experiencing a brush fire that hopefully will increase equality in our workplace. The pervasiveness of sexual harassment has erupted unto our social scene. The sleeping dog is no longer silent.
The time to be heard is now
TIME Magazine made a statement when it decided its 2017 person of the year was “The Silence Breakers.” Sexual harassment is not a new epidemic; however, the way that people are speaking up and being heard is revolutionary. According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), about 75 percent of all workplace incidents go unreported. Social media has transformed awareness for sexual harassment, as well as the ability for victims to come forth in huge numbers. Recently, the “me too” hashtag went viral and victims shared their stories and their struggles on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, empowering masses of other victims to reveal their story.
What is sexual harassment and assault?
Simply put, sexual harassment is an abuse of power. Those in power may use subtle methods to promote their power, while silencing the one they are asserting power over, including intimidation, coercion often disguised as play, teasing or joking, assert gender or racial privilege, or assert economic inequality.
If you are a victim, speak up. If you are a perpetrator, stand down.
A new ABC News-Washington Post poll found that half of all American women (54 percent) have experienced “unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances.” Of those 54 percent, 30 percent experienced this behavior from male coworkers, and 25 percent of those men were superiors, who had influence on the victim’s employment. The poll found that 33 million U.S. women have been sexually harassed, and 14 million sexually abused in work-related situations.
These statistics are sobering, and unfortunately, before victims began to find their voice with campaigns such as “me too”, they were silenced. Now is the time to find your voice and take action to empower yourself and others.
As a result of this revolution of exposure and downfall of many in power, hopefully, those who are in powerful positions will be more mindful of their responsibility to create a work atmosphere that doesn’t promote using sex or sexuality as a means of asserting power, but rather focuses upon the old staples of hard work and good character, if for no other reason than to avoid being brought down by exposure at any given time.