Require & Enforce Employers and Colleges To Follow Up With Sexual Harassment Allegations

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Today in America, more women than ever are bringing to light on how they were sexually assaulted by their male colleagues in the past. Many of the high-profile cases include people such as Bill O’Reilly, Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, and many others.  Sexual assault is not exclusive to the work place either. Many college campuses are having issues with sexual assault too. 10 schools which included Brown, U-Conn, Dartmouth College, and others have at least 35 rape reports on their main campuses in 2014 (Chicago Tribune, 2016). Sexual assault is nothing new, but the rising trend of it in the workplace and on campus is dangerous and it raises questions on how are these cases are being handled when reported.  

            Being in college and surrounded by college kids almost 24/7, makes me wonder how many rape cases go unnoticed or dismissed at the school I attend. Even though many cases were reported and handled accordingly, the allegations against Bill Cosby that arose again in 2014 was the start of many more high-profile allegations coming to light. According to the LA Times, 45 women in 2014 said they were assaulted by Cosby (LA Times, 2017). Currently, there are resources to help victims of sexual harassment get the help and the mental, physical, and emotional support they need to get through the initial experience. Contrary to the different resources available, you don’t hear about many sexual harassment prevention programs being put in place for employees and college students. One thing I can say many colleges have in place that is required for students to educate themselves about are domestic violence & sexual harassment prevention programs online. The previous college that I attended made it mandatory for us to complete the online program before a pre-determined date or risk a hold being placed on our student account preventing class registration for next semester. The current university that I’m at now has the same requirements in place. However out of all the jobs that I’ve been employed at with the exception of Six Flags, none of them required its employees to take courses on sexual harassment. Six Flags requires that only employees working in specific departments be trained on how to identify sexual harassment in the workplace. Today with the rising trend in sexual harassment, how are we dealing with the cases in the most appropriate and ethical matter?

            In last week’s issue of Radio Times, Angela Lansbury said that with women’s efforts to look more attractive, it “has backfired”. She insists that women own up to the fact that they have gone out their way to look more attractive, but unfortunately it backfired on them (Radio Times, 2017). I can completely agree with what she’s saying because women shouldn’t have to dress a certain way to prevent them from being harassed, but at the same time there is some clothing that is just inappropriate for the workplace.

            Even though women’s clothing shouldn’t be the issue in the work place unless its distasteful and completely disregards company policy, USA Today’s Mike Snider reports on the rising sexual assault accusations in New York’s TV industry. Snider interviewed Mark Feldstein, a former journalist at NBC and Feldstein quoted “New York is where the power is and this is fundamentally a scandal about power and the abuse of power in sexual ways.” Feldstein also spills the tea on how there was a running joke that went around the office on how on-air anchorwomen wouldn’t have gotten where they were now without being bedded by “ugly TV executives” (USA Today, 2017). It is obvious now where most of these accusations are coming from; top level executives. The television or even just the entertainment industry period is such a “close knitted” community, that many women years ago who worked in the industry were considered lucky because you could only rise up by word of mouth or by simply just being a man since many women weren’t in this industry yet. However, there is still no excuse for any top-level executives to sexually harass women. Feldstein’s insights into what really goes on is a major strength in USA Today’s article. Many current people who work in the TV industry won’t go into specifics like that because there is still a fear of retaliation against them. What I want to know though is why didn’t Feldstein report what he witnessed to the appropriate authorities or why Mike Snider didn’t ask why other male colleagues didn’t report the incidents. This is probably the biggest weakness in this article from the author.

            Actress Ashley Judd made her first public appearance at the Women’s Convention in Detroit since she accused Harvey Weinstein of rape. At the convention, she gave a speech against the sexual harassment and how there is “naturally a chaotic, messy, unprecedented sociocultural, sexual change happening.” One of the keywords she uses to describe the situation is “natural.” I feel as if her use of the word natural, is telling us that some of us are being raised to think that this type of behavior is merely acceptable in society when it’s not. Judd also pointed out that gender equality, human trafficking, and sexual abuse are all still a huge prevalent problem that we’re dealing with still. A strength point that should be pointed out is the questions that Judd asked. She asked questions like “What about all of the women whose careers never got off of the ground?” and “What about the collective economic loss endured, especially by women in low paying jobs, women on the margin of the margin, he undocumented, the field workers, the gals in the diners who get their bottom pinched all the time?” (NBC Washington, 2017). These are the questions that aren’t being asked and it raises even more question on why they aren’t being asked.

            After hearing the different perspectives on this issue in the sources above, generally speaking most people are agreeing that there needs to be measures and policies in place to deter employers and organizations from simply doing nothing about sexual harassment reports. It is obvious that the problem not only lies with the people who choose to harass those at work, but the entrusted Human Resource department at work and the student affairs department at various schools across the country. When entrusted with such a duty to investigate cases such as these, you would think that a person would come to their ethical instincts and do everything in their power to help the victim and reassure that they are working and living in a safe space.

Many people, women specifically, are coming forward years later to talk about how their former and/or current colleague(s) sexually harassed them. From hearing the different stories on why these people decided to come out years later is very disturbing and it should bring awareness to people seeking employment. For the most part, the main reason for people coming out years later to bring horror experiences back to life is the fact that they did not want to face retaliation from other coworkers at the time. These coworkers had the power to determine their next move within the company or project. The people who did report the alleged events however, were unfortunately unaware of how the department they reported to would handle the case. Ironically, most departments either dismissed the reports or stalled the alleged victim until he/she reminded them of the issue. People who work in the departments who handles these cases should take something similar to an oath to serve the individuals who come to them for help because I believe that it is an ethical duty to help those in this type of situation. Please sign this petition to let the United States Department of Labor know that sexual harassment cases need to be dealt with by a specific person or group of people who have a sworn duty to investigate accordingly. 

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