Harassment has been making headlines across the world as of late. What started with Harvey Weinstein has turned into a deluge of serious allegations against dozens of high-profile men in various industries. The resulting spike in media attention has shed light on this very serious topic, and it’s one that affects women and men in every workplace and sphere of life – not just in Hollywood or Silicon Valley.
It’s important to remember that harassment is not always of a sexual nature. It can be quite subtle, and it has no gender boundaries. Anyone can be a victim: man or woman, shift worker or executive. According to MSN, 31% of people in the US alone admit to having been harassed at work. The most harassed group are women aged 30-44, at 49%, while 22% of men in the same age group has been subject to harassment.
Also worth noting – and it’s an issue that the current headline-grabbing scandals have brought to light – is how underreported harassment is. A staggering 73% of female victims and 81% of male victim say that they never reported being abused. Former Fox News Channel host Gretchen Carlson is one example of the reason: When she filed a harassment lawsuit against Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes in 2016, she was promptly fired from her job of 11 years.
If it’s possible for there to be a positive aspect to the current harassment scandals in the news daily, it’s that many harassment victims feel comfortable coming forward, including a #MeToo movement launched in October on social media to publicly shame perpetrators. Many prominent accused harassers are facing repercussions for their actions.
- Kevin Spacey was fired by Netflix and removed from House of Cards and his part in Ridley Scott’s new film, All the Money in the World was recast with Christopher Plummer.
- Comedian Louis C.K. had his comedy specials and other shows pulled from Netflix and HBO, FX cancelled his TV show, and his new film, I Love You Daddy, lost distribution just as it was set for release.
- Veteran journalist Charlie Rose was fired by both CBS and PBS after being accused of harassment by several women.
- DC Comics editor Eddie Berganza was widely known as an accused harasser for many years, and was finally fired following a Buzzfeed article about the widespread knowledge of his alleged abuse within the company and the comics industry at large.
- Gaming and entertainment website IGN saw a staff walkout in November over a victim of alleged harassment being forced to sign a document admitting culpability for being the subject of unwanted advances.
This movement is something many call “The Weinstein Effect.” But are behaviours truly changing, or are perpetrators simply more aware that they’re under scrutiny?
Either way, never let yourself become a victim – recognize the signs of harassment when you see them:
- Inappropriate advances that make you uncomfortable, such as unwanted physical contact, improper comments about your appearance, and/or conversations of a sexual nature.
- Continued inappropriate behaviours even after you have specified that it bothers you. An isolated incident is not necessarily unlawful – an offensive work environment is.
- Feeling that you are not authorized to put an end to the behaviour, whether implicitly or explicitly.
- Feeling uncomfortable to issue a formal complaints, be it due to embarrassment, fear of disbelief, or simply reluctance to “make a scene” at work.
- Inadequate management reactions to similar situations in others, such as failing to commend the victim for coming forward, downplaying the issue, and/or ridiculing the victim.
- Suspicion that you are being judged negatively for your gender, which can be displayed via being given only certain kinds of work or being passed over for promotion despite your achievements.
If you believe that you are being sexually harassed, don’t be afraid to speak up. There are numerous harassment helplines in Canada and the U.S., where compassionate professionals are ready to give the support and tools needed. The times seem to be finally changing for the better.
Diana Spektor | The Edge Blog