Matt Lauer, Louis CK, Charlie Rose, Al Frankin, Sylvester Stallone, Jeremy Piven, Peyton Manning, John Besh, Chris Savino, Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein-these are just a few names of prominent men who have faced allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment within their workplaces. Seems as though every day more names are added to this list.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is hardly a new occurrence in America. Daily individuals experience harassment by others whose names have yet to make the list or who simply are not as well-known enough to make the news. For generations women have faced harassment while simply just trying to make a living or do what they love. Although sexual harassment is against workplace policies in most places of employment in America, it has still forced some individuals to have to resign or quit their jobs when workplaces fail to intervene or believe them. Many individuals have had to stay in jobs while being exposed to inappropriate behavior at the hands of their supervisors and co-workers because they knew they needed the income for them (and often their children) to survive. Some stay yet wishing they could just feel safe at work. Similar to being in an abusive relationship, sexual harassment thrives in environments of power and control, therefore it does not come as a surprise to us that these “powerful men” are falling fast.
So what is sexual harassment? Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination that falls under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sexual harassment can be defined as “Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment”
Sexual harassment is no new issue, as I’ve said before. It’s no surprise to me that so many prominent men are facing allegations. I’m not disappointed that they are facing the consequences for their behavior. What does come as a disappointment to me is that it took this long for (some of) these men to be held accountable for their actions. Why is our nation JUST NOW looking at sexual harassment in the workplace when it has been an issue that we have recognized since the 60’s (and that has occurred since the beginning of time)? Let’s also not forget the fact that these men are men with power-men who are known in our society and in our professional industries. What about all the others who harass and abuse without accountability which is just now being put into place thanks to the brave disclosures of a few?
What is happening is just a highlight of a bigger issue. A bigger issue of a survivor of violence who is unable to have a voice. So on behalf of all of the women and men who are coming forward to share what has happened to them, I applaud you. You are brave and your bravery is opening the door for others to speak. For those who have experienced such discrimination and still are afraid to speak-you too are brave. Please know that you’re not alone and that we see you admits a world that you may feel you are invisible in! If you need to speak about what is happening and you are afraid, please know that Umbrella (and other programs like ours across the nation) are protected by confidentiality and you can even call our hotline (St. Johnsbury, VT (802) 748- 8645 or in Newport (802) 334-0148) anonymously to receive support! You are not alone.