By Linda Wolf,Contributor/worldwidehippies.com
Whether or not you are a fan of social media, the phrase “me too” has been blossoming across the country. These two words are a result of a tweet from the actress Alyssa Milano “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
I was sexually assaulted and harassed when I was about 17 at my first ‘real’ job. I was a dental assistant trainee for an orthodontist. My employer was in the hospital for lung cancer, so a neighboring doctor was helping with his practice. That old pervert used to grab my breasts and butt. Sometimes in front of patients who were about my age. I felt embarrassed and humiliated. When I told my co-workers, young women about 5-8 years older than me, they laughed it off. “That’s just the way he is”. “He doesn’t mean anything by it”. Bullshit I thought., but at that young age, in a real job, who was I to say? I quit my job and dental assisting, moving on to bigger and better things. The legal field.
Just to set the record straight, let’s learn a few facts. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a shrinking branch of the federal government, Sexual harassment is: Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when: 1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of ..employment; 2) rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for employment; 3) such conduct has the effect of unreasonably interfering with work performance, creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.
The Department of Justice states that Sexual Assault is: “Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consentof the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape”.
These laws are a result of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which has been updated over the years.
Sexual harassment doesn’t just happen in law offices, dental offices, schools and the entertainment industry. It happens in restaurants, factories, warehouses and retail stores. Just last year, a Costco warehouse employee won a judgment against her employer. The company knew she was being stalked but chose to do nothing to stop it. Recently in California, two supervisors harassed many female workers by offering promotions for sex while constantly subjecting them to sexual advances, stalking, touching and leering. Sexual harassment happens when an authority figure treats certain employees very different than other employees, based upon their sex.
I can hear some of you now. She asked for it, if she hadn’t wanted my attention, she should not have worn…she should not have done…. The old ‘blame the victim routine’. After all, it was all her fault. What a crock of crap.
The newest statistics from the EEOC state that 1 in 4 women are sexually harassed in the workplace. The rate for sexual assault is slightly higher according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. That means that the 12-17 years old teenagers, 15% are assaulted. For women 18-34 years, more than half (54%) are assaulted. Of women aged 35 to 64, 28% are attacked. The ratio for older women, aged 65 and up, 3% have been assailed. The sad part? Those are only the ones that reported their assault. Not all women do. Imagine the number of women who have been grabbed by their pussy and not spoken up for fear of retaliation and embarrassed.
So why haven’t more women been coming forward and admitting that they were harassed and assaulted? There are many reasons. Fear, embarrassment, and feeling somehow responsible for it. Who will believe me? I don’t want to lose my job, as I have a family to support are often the reasons. In my case, I was only 17. Who would believe me? A teenager girl versus a respected doctor.
If you are being harassed, there are ways to stop feeling powerless. The first is to speak directly to the harasser. Tell them no, that behavior will not be tolerated and is not welcome. Look around to see if there are any witnesses. If so, ask them pointedly ‘did you just see what he did/said?’ If the harassment continues, warn them that further action will be taken. Document and write everything that was said and done. Note the dates and details. Keep these notes on you and out of the work place. Tell the Human Resource Department or supervisor. Ask around, see if there are any other victims. Contact the EEOC and an employment attorney. Know your rights.
“Me Too” is working. The magnitude of victims are speaking up, numbering in the thousands. Perhaps by finding our voice, the
harassers may learn that being grabbed and groped is not acceptable.