The chances are that many of them, or perhaps the vast majority, have been subjected to sexual harassment at some point in their life, in some cases in the workplace.
The issue of sexual harassment and sexual violence has once again been brought under the public microscope after repeated allegations against Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who has been publicly accused of a long list of sexual misconduct allegations, all of which he denies and have yet to be tested in court.
With that said, despite the adage “innocent until proven guilty” it would appear that Weinstein’s career will have a hard time putting itself back together after this most recent trip through the media meat grinder.
Putting Weinstein aside, the scandal has created a vacuum in which women from across the world are banding together through the powers of social media to share their stories of sexual harassment, or to simply acknowledge that they as well are a victim.
The widespread participation has made it clear that something needs to change.
Using #metoo on Twitter, the movement has been shared and posted about hundreds of thousands of times in the virtual world, but on Oct. 16, Councillor Amy McQuaid-England brought it into the real world, and gave all of her council members quite a shock.
The young female councillor shared that throughout her years at city hall, she has been the victim of a number of instances of sexual harassment, something Mayor John Henry later said that he was unaware of, but would following up on.
McQuaid-England deserves kudos for finding the courage to share such disheartening, and sometimes embarrassing tales from behind the scenes of council, but the fact that she couldn’t come forward before is the real problem.
Mayor Henry, in speaking to the media following the announcement, noted that while there is an obligation for him to follow-up on such complaints, there is also an obligation for the victim to come forward to report these incidents when they happen.
Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy.
The circumstances surrounding these disgusting incidents vary greatly and one can never know the personal reasons as to why someone chooses not to report. However, in many cases, it is either the fear of not being believed or having the incident shrugged off as no big deal.
As McQuaid-England said, many times she was told that’s just the way things are.
For that reason, it’s time to stop thinking about why victims don’t come forward and turn our minds to creating an environment where it’s encouraged to speak out, and not just for victims, but for everyone who witnesses harassment taking place.
There are no excuses for this kind of behaviour, especially in the workplace, and it’s time that everyone gets the message. By keeping silent, we only become part of the problem.