Tag Archive: sexual assault

Most businesses and institutions have some form of sexual harassment policy and most of them proclaim “zero tolerance.” But my two cents? I call foul.

Why? Because just because the policy exists doesn’t for a second mean that it’s worth the paper it’s written on. In order for any policy to be valid it has to be enforced and if it’s not then it might as well not exist. In my experience “zero tolerance” for sexual harassment usually means no tolerance only if someone actually comes forward and says something and only if there was actually groping involved. But what about that 23 year-old guy who thinks he’s being funny or cute by telling his 16 year-old co-worker to smile more or the supervisor who makes lewd comments because he’s trying to be cool? What about when an employee is asked out repeatedly by a co-worker even when they have clearly stated their disinterest time and time again? What about that student who’s been sexually assaulted by a classmate but is still forced to endure the unwanted attention in class because there isn’t any “evidence” of the assault or it happened off-campus? When any of these, or any number of other similar situations, are ignored it completely negates the policy. When the people with the power choose to ignore what happens in their workplace it opens the door for violators of sexual harassment policies to get away with far more than they ever should. And while no one can know everything that goes on I think that everyone has a responsibility to be aware of what is taking place around them. If you see that 16 year-old co-worker quietly slink away from the older man or if you know your friend has been harassed you have an obligation to say something. And furthermore, if you are in a position of power you have an obligation to take all allegations seriously.

The tendency to minimize sexual harassment and assault by tidying it away under the rug in order to maintain a pristine reputation is causing a systemic problem in our society. And “zero tolerance” policies that are not honoured are perpetuating it. The illusion of consequence isn’t enough. The illusion of consequence makes it possible for predators to get away with anything and it makes victims afraid to come forward. Knowing that you’ll be told to keep quiet makes it feel hopeless to even bother trying to seek justice for an attack. And victims not coming forward right away seems to cause a lot of resistance to believing their stories. You see the nasty cycle we’ve created here? There are a lot of things that need to happen in the world to get the epidemic of sexual assault under control but, I think, actually honouring the “zero tolerance” policies we claim to follow will go a long way to helping break the cycle.


Thoughts on Kesha

Okay, this isn’t really thoughts on Kesha. But it is thoughts brought on by the current Kesha situation. More specifically, a comment that I saw a friend of a friend post on Facebook about it. I don’t actually know anything about the situation aside from what I’ve seen on my very feminist-biased social media feeds but, I digress.

The comment that I saw was extensive but began thusly: “Sexual assault and rape are VERY different.” I’m not going to lie, I almost puked when I read it because it was said in defence of the alleged attacker. The poster went on to accuse Kesha of making up a story to get out of her contract and attempting to ruin the producer’s life with a rape charge. Wait, hold on a second. Ruin the producer’s life??? Yeah. That’s the kind of society we live in that we’re more concerned about an attacker’s tarnished reputation (notice I say tarnished and not destroyed because we’re pretty forgiving when it comes to men doing shitty things) than we are about a victim’s well-being and safety. For the record, it’s called rape culture and it’s out of control. There were a lot of sickening things about this post that I could delve into but I don’t want to get into my thoughts about the specific case because, like I said, I really don’t know anything about it.

What really got me was that first sentence. Sexual assault and rape are VERY different. Legally they might be but to the victim of sexual assault? Believe me, when it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter what the violation was, it’s traumatic and it can affect the rest of their lives. The memory of that violation never goes away. The fear of it happening again, or even of something worse happening never goes away. But for some reason the objective degree of severity was still a way for this person to defend a sexual predator. I could be totally off the mark but I’m willing to bet the person who originally wrote that (male) has never been sexually harassed or assaulted. And I’m even more willing to bet that even if they have they’ve never been forced to work in close quarters with that person again.

When it comes to feeling unsafe there is no difference between sexual assault and rape. And no one should EVER be forced into a situation where they feel unsafe regardless of the reason. No one should be expected to be able to work in that kind of situation much less create. Those feelings of being constantly tense and ready to fight back, of always trying to make sure there are at least two of your people in the room, of trying to stand up for yourself but being silenced are torture. Pure and simple. It leaves victims terrified, exhausted and completely emotionally wrecked. When it comes down to that? You can take your legal semantics and stick them where the sun don’t shine. The law is one thing but how on earth could you be a living, breathing, feeling human being and not understand this most basic need to feel safe? How on earth could you defend someone who prevents others from fulfilling this need?

If celebrities can’t even win a fight for their safety, what hope do the rest of us have? And furthermore, the fact that anyone has to fight for something like this is disgusting. I can only hope that someday empathy and human decency win out over this horrible victim-blaming and shaming thing we’ve got going on right now.