No person should ever be subjected to any form of sexual harassment. But every person in this world should be subject to the education on the prevention and recognition of mischievous behavior. Reginald Maddox
As most of you know, numerous reports of sexual harassment and assault allegations have been made against some of the most popular men in the entertainment industry. Several government officials, from the Senate to the White House, have also been named in these allegations. Women from various parts of the country are coming forward to speak about their encounters and how they were subjected to inappropriate behavior by men they met or worked with at some point in their life.
The discussion of sexual misconduct is now being covered by the local and national media on every platform possible. As a result, the “#MeToo” movement has been popularized as a way for women to publicize experiences demonstrating the growing impropriety towards women. According to AJC.com, Tarana Burke, an activist from Harlem, launched the movement a decade ago to aid underprivileged women of color affected by sexual abuse. She was inspired after bonding with a young girl during a youth camp hosted by Just Be Inc., a nonprofit she founded that’s “focused on the health, well-being, and wholeness of young women of color.” The #MeToo movement has received some negative and positive feedback. Some people feel the movement is liberating and promotes awareness, while others feel individuals who are accused may be exposed to arduous criticism and complications without proper fact-checking.
Incidentally, I find it challenging to discern how these current movement groups will have a positive long-term effect regarding individuals who they represent. For instance, most modern-day movements are media focused and fail to provide the essential resources and education needed for a person to recover mentally from traumatic experiences. Furthermore, any form of social movement (alternative, redemptive, reformative, and revolutionary) should reflect a system that encourages a healthy form of dialogue to educate all parties on the issues and any instructions deemed as a call-to-action response. Any organization or individual that creates a movement to advocate for either minor or profound changes must ensure the process encompasses society as a whole.
To return to the subject, sexual harassment and assault has always been a topic of discussion at universities/colleges. As a Campus Safety Director/Emergency Coordinator, I spoke to hundreds of students/parents each year regarding this issue. One of my proudest moments was witnessing the Greek organizations not only implement my recommendations during their events but actively use the steps to ensure that men and women were safe at their activities. On the other hand, there were days I found myself disgusted by the actions of male students towards females. But the worst was having a Dean of Students instruct three female students and one male student to not report active incidents of sexual assault/rape. Any victim of sexual misconduct needs the support of the people around them.
At this point, let’s discuss some topics that I feel would help in the education of sexual assault and harassment in the workplace or public areas. These topics for discussion apply to both men and women. I know everyone will not agree with my views, but sometimes, the brightest light of understanding comes from seeing things outside of our own point of view. In other words, as Dave Chappelle stated in one of his shows, “we are not going to see eye to eye on this.”
The dialogue between Men and Women
In an interview on ABC News’ “Popcorn With Peter Travers,” Matt Damon opened up about Weinstein and others who have been publicly accused of sexual harassment and misconduct. After this interview, he quickly came under fire on social media for his comments regarding sexual misconduct. To pursue a method of full compliance for men and women in preventing sexual misconduct, we must be receptive to the opinion of both sides. Failure to acknowledge the voices of others may leave people feeling discarded or assuming the law only favors one side. We must remember that there have been cases of sexual harassment filed against women (EEOC.GOV). Men and women should strive to understand each other’s frame of thinking as a means to develop a resolution that offers understanding and acknowledgment of inappropriate behavior.
Body Language and Signals
Have you ever engaged in a conversation with someone where you felt it was just casual talk? Afterwards, someone says to you that you really seem to be into him/her. If you have, there is no need to be ashamed. Sometimes, when we are engrossed in conversation, our bodies may be sending mixed signals. This may result from nervousness, discomfort or a variety of personality traits. For example, Julia is interviewing for a job, and so she displays signs of nervousness by slightly holding her head down, but looking up and using one hand to push her hair out of her face. The interviewer may interpret this as her having an interest in him or her flirting. William is having a conversation with a new co-worker but appears to be somewhat fidgety with his hands, and his voice seems to change pitch during the conversation. The woman may assume he is intimidated by her and wants to ask her on a date. In each of these scenarios, a person displayed a generic behavior that the other person perceived in a unique way. Even if a person exhibits a behavior that we construe as a form of flirting, it does not give anyone the right to make obscene gestures or remarks. I have witnessed men and women misinterpret another’s behavior based on their emotional interest in similar situations.
Additionally, the more people interact with each other normally, the more their comfort levels change. At some point, everyone must learn to recognize the boundaries of becoming comfortable in conversation and their actions, particularly when it comes to touching and kissing people without their consent. Therefore, people who play the work husband and wife should tread carefully. This also includes the office person who doesn’t hesitate to walk up and start massaging certain people’s shoulders. To be honest, everyone should make a valiant effort to respect other people’s personal space in public and in the work environment.
Sexual misconduct of any form is a violation of a person’s rights. The education for prevention of this wrongful behavior should be instilled in every generation. Men and women in positions of authority must understand the importance of responsible leadership. Anyone who is looking to get ahead in life should not submit themselves to this type of behavior with the hopes of some opportunity in the future.
If you are a victim of sexual harassment, you should file your complaint as soon as possible according to your Human Resource Policy, or visit the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for more information.