A delicate balance:
Let’s face it: An alleged assault, harassment, or pedophiles behavior can be difficult to prove. When reporting these crimes, it does require an exhaustive description. It can engender fear of admitting they have been a victim of a crime or inappropriate behavior from threats to their lives, family, jobs and careers.
The simplest definition of these unwanted behaviors, if it feels wrong, it is!
If you’re asking yourself. Who do I turn to in a crisis? You’re not alone
These victims deserve your support, resources to upgrading of outdated laws to protect them as more women and in fewer cases, men are coming forward to report their stories
Shortly after the [Mee-Too] movements surfaced, some popular television shows canceled; including apologies from executives and TV personalities who lost their jobs. In addition, million-dollar settlements from harassment cases, many portraits removed from buildings, honorary degrees, and awards rescinded, according to reports, but these activities alone will not change this systematic behavior.
The reality, after a cooling-off period, if caught; some will be back to work. Often these accused offenders are wealthy and can afford to remain unemployed for the rest of their lives.
Today, few cameras may have been turned off, but has anything changed; especially for those without a voice? Sadly, her story may require not only an extra lens, but an ear for details regarding her story?
Very often individuals become victims from a bad date, or street harassment. However, harassment and assaults accept no boundaries.
These cases complexity still roar like an ocean; especially where social taboo from what you eat, drink, to relationships globally can create an emotional aversion in several cultures.
I am not implying there is a declining standard and there are no laws in place to combat this issue, but it appears that compulsive urge driven by what is popular has promoted a detachment. These topics surrounding sexuality and what constitutes bad behavior remain a delicate balance for many women victims.
(1) One noted that during her local doctor’s visit for an annual checkup, she was inappropriately fondled and complimented on her underwear, while alone in his office as her medical issues seemed less important
(2) This morning, an inappropriate behavior may not be one she would prefer to discuss. He is prominent, rich, influential and who dares to talk about his behavior. He is also the sole person with access to much-needed medication, so who do you report that incident to?
(2) The other sexually assaulted, threatened if she speaks up. A check was provided to stay quiet. Later she was notified to give it back and prove the incident.
(3) Fired from her only job in her late 50s, unable to find work as potential employers hesitant to hire someone who filed these claims.
(5) She is now age 16, pregnant, and dropped out of school: Her child’s father is the influential man in the community who denies the relationship, but who will listen if she believes that she was raped?
These are only few of the real stories from one of my two-day conference- gathering designed to inspire, challenge and to change course
Sexual misconduct does not only occur in refugee camps when women fled violence, sexual exploitation, and other atrocities. The alleged assault and harassment are beyond the corporate board, and multi-million productions.
These issues are prevalent in your workplace, weather a call center, schools, movie theater, and yes, politics, place of worship, grocery store, in homes, dance floor and on the street corner. However, if the community and system to protect only recognize a victim as an acquaintance, then an assault, harassment, and even rape can be minimized.
A new paradigm shift is needed:
I get it: Some who have the power to inspire much-needed change sometimes leave these stories alone because of the potential local domino effect. One’s socioeconomic status or those aligned with our religious or political ideology to the silliness that this person does not look like an abuser should not result in silence.
When these victims come forward, not only their careers can be ruined, they are often re-victimized and stigmatized.
It is our responsibility from human resources, local authorities, supervisors, the community to elected leaders to protect when they speak up about these miserable experiences. Sure, communities can express public disagreements and approach to leadership on these issues, but no action is simply conferring more power to the perpetrators.
These stories of inappropriate widespread sexual advances, harassment, and even rape by powerful men require more than the normal political cover, and or photo-ups. It necessitates accountability, enforcement and a holistic approach. In addition, even in rape cases, local law enforcement needs the community help and resources to close these cases swiftly.
Studies have shown that every 95 seconds a woman is either harassed, raped or abused especially in poor and developing regions. Being targeted on a public transportation, private taxi, job training, classroom setting that often leads to dire consequences if not addressed appropriately.
Today, more women are coming forward, and it will help others still searching for courage, fairness, justice and leadership to have a voice addressing sexual misconduct because no one is immune.
Jamaican born actor and singer Grace Jones told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that when she was younger, and auditioned for a movie role that she was approached for sexual favors before she could be accepted.
She recalled throwing a drink at him and vacated the room. No every woman has the strength, or tenacity like her. Although Grace Jones got out, many stayed for economic reasons and even fear of more violence, and refuse to speak up.
Upward mobility, gender equity and equality does not reduce some male chauvinistic mentality. It remains a barrier sub-consciously or not in many regions. Therefore, harassment that often leads to assaults may seems normal.
These issues that normally stays in the dark, requires a sea change because it can no longer be ascribed to culture or an antiquated system.
Sexual harassment and assaults are more than a local politician arriving at a crime scene, taking a few pictures with a victim, making promises for your vote or placing it on social media as if one cares with little or no resources to follow.
Our communities would be better served if they demand more from their elected officials. The normal 24-hour news cycle can bring awareness, but not a strategy from the real issues: Though women’s unity-social-media tags are important, if there are no action or follow-up policies, it cannot change course for a tangible solution.
It is like placing someone of color in a company to be able to say at present, it is diverse when that toxic culture remains the same.
A majority of victims tends to stay put on their jobs, and while other employees may be aware of these incidents, in order to save their own economic survival a majority tends to remain silent to minimize the risk to their jobs
Regardless of race, sex, religious belief, or socioeconomic status; when victims muster the courage to come forward to describe their stories they should not be in fear of how their families will be supported from retaliation. Having fundamental support is critical to further reduce stigma. These stories will help society and the next generation to define what is acceptable.
From the movie producer, an actor, the unemployed person at the corner calling students that walks by, business owner, law enforcement, politicians, or teachers, only personal responsibility and accountability are key to how the community mitigate these issues.
Between the valleys:
Creating new policies and highlighting these stories builds confidence for the next generation through awareness that will enable victims to speak up. It also reduces potential crimes, enhance overall public safety, modernizes communities, and reduces psychological harm especially those without proper resources.
As a society, we can no longer afford these crimes to be short-lived compared to the sensationalism of global news headlines that sometimes only promote division; socially, culturally, and economically that has little or no impact on local structural issues, but tends to receive more attention.
These stories regardless of location, sexual harassment and assaults takes more than likes on social media or a re-tweet to create a mental shift on this behavior.
This is a global issue, whether flying, driving, or relaxing, staying connected to one’s culture, heritage, dancing, or working. Sometimes we must wake up from the comfort of our hammock and offer our voice to make a difference though it may be difficult.
I hope that leaders and advocates with the platform and power will continue to use it wisely in their respective communities even to protect one new victim.