How people respond to sexual harassment is a true test of their understanding of what it is and its impact. How people have and will respond to Harvey Weinstein’s story is a testimony to their own integrity. —————–
According to the BC Human Rights Clinic, Sexual Harassment in the Workplace can be defined by the following key elements:
- Conduct of a sexual nature which is gender based,
- Conduct that is unwelcome, and
- Conduct that detrimentally affects the work environment or leads to adverse job- related consequences.
Note, while women typically experience sexual harassment more often than men, sexual harassment can and does happen to men. It can also occur between two people of the same-sex.
As we wade through the media storm that surrounds Mr. Weinstein it becomes apparent that there were many victims and many non-innocent bystanders. If we set aside the finger-pointing that is happening right now it might be prudent to explore some of the common traits, beliefs and behaviours of a sexual harassers. I’m no expert but there does seem to be some commonality…
The Harasser has:
- A Skewed Perception
Their fantasy world has taken over reality and hijacked any sensibility that others may possess. Their desire plus the need for emotional and physical control over another person is so intoxicating that they are drawn to more experiences. Their perception of conversations and events can be radically different from the recollections of victims but that doesn’t mean they are delusional. They still have the ability to observe their behaviours even if they don’t want to fully acknowledge their conduct.
- Access to Power
Though sexual harassment can be perpetrated by anyone, at any time, it is particularly difficult when the person is in a position of power. Whether they be an Owner, CEO, Manager or Supervisor, if the individual has the ability to decide the fate of someone’s life/job there is added pressure on the victim to evaluate the situation and choose next moves very carefully. When someone knows they can, “grab’em by the pussy”, grope a breast, steal a kiss or aggressively ask for sexual favours – simply because of their position of power – then they cease to be a competent, respected member of the business team, let alone a respectful member of society.
- Felt Justified
Women deserve it. Despite gender evolution there are people who have failed to develop, preferring to stay entrenched in outdated thinking. There’s also an ever-increasing production of material that will ensure men still believe that women like abuse, are weak but sexually driven and should acquiesce to the wishes of males. These men feel justified in their actions against women and when confronted they demand that others just “get over it.” In their minds women are objects and obstacles not persons. Because of that perception it is difficult to open their mind and change the story, it’s all they know.
- A Lack of Consequences
How many years can go by before a man like Weinstein – who committed harassment, intimidation, and assault – would be held accountable? Apparently, more years than most of us imagined. Multiple people and agencies turned a blind eye or yielded under pressure in order to protect themselves and a man who didn’t deserve an ounce of loyalty or respect. Like all predators he positioned himself (no pun intended) like a fox in a hens cage. He found ways to mask his crimes by supporting causes and individuals that make him appear to be something he’s not – a classic distraction from his truth.
Where does that leave us?
The impact of sexual harassment in the workplace is buried in a toxic soup of abuse, lies, cover-ups, resentment, anger and hurt. Good employees leave while other employees, who are willing to comply or tough it out, work in conflict and suspicion. Nobody is safe in a work culture that rewards bad or criminal behaviour. To sell your soul to the devil in business is easier for some than others but make no mistake a soul is damaged.
Our only hope of changing the tide of harassment is to start with ourselves and our children. In my next blog post I want to open up a larger discussion and hear from others about what we can do to reduce the incidences of sexual harassment.