Sunday, May 20, 2018

Opinion

Harassment shouldn’t be so common

More than half of female respondents to a poll in October reported they’ve experienced unwanted sexual advances.

Thirty percent reported the advances came from male coworkers, according to the ABC News/​Washington Post survey, and nearly a quarter said they came from someone with influence over their work situation. Results of the poll translate “to approximately 33 million American women being sexually harassed, and 14 million sexually abused, in work-related incidents,” the report states.

These numbers are inexcusable, but maybe the most startling result from the survey was that 95 percent of women who said they’ve experienced unwanted sexual advances in the workplace believe male harassers usually go unpunished, while fewer than half said they reported the incident to a supervisor.

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Sexual harassment and abuse have dominated national headlines since a report in September detailed decades of both alleged sexual harassment and assault by movie producter Harvey Weinstein.

At the state level, the Wisconsin Assembly this week approved mandatory sexual harassment training. Members of the Assembly and their employees will have to attend such training once every two years, according to the Associated Press. The resolution passed by a 92-0 vote. Orientation for new members of the Legislature had offered such training previously, but it was not mandatory.

“We were able to do it in a bipartisan way ... to say that every single person who works in government or any workplace ... should feel safe whenever they walk into their place of employment,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos in an AP story. “We’re doing our part in Wisconsin to make sure that we have training for the employees who work inside the Legislature.”

The story said new state senators receive sexual harassment training during meetings with the chamber’s chief clerk and human resources officials, and that making that training recurring is being considered by the Senate.

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Many of us have been through some form of harassment “training” during orientation for a given job. In the past, it often included a video featuring actors with little ability in the craft, a brutally dry script and wildly overt examples of harassment. The videos undoubtedly provided fodder for at least a few episodes of “The Office.”

Hopefully, times have changed. And if the #MeToo movement has shown us anything, it’s that there’s a glaring need for relevant, improved programs and that they should be more readily available. 

“Much of the training done over the last 30 years has not worked as a prevention tool — it’s been too focused on simply avoiding legal liability,” reads a report from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that also said once-a-year sexual harassment seminars likely have little effect.

But innovations that have had an impact, the study found, include programs that include bystander training or are tailored to specific workplaces. “There is also an emphasis on middle managers, who are seen as the first line of defense against inappropriate behavior,” the report says.

Awareness has certainly increased. An ABC News/​Washington Post poll found that 75 percent of Americans find sexual harassment a problem in the workplace and nearly two-thirds said it was a “serious problem.” Both percentages were higher than in a 2011 poll.

Harassment in any form at any location is unacceptable. Efforts such as the Assembly’s, though modest, are positive. Hopefully private businesses are taking similar actions.


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