Recently there has been a flood of allegations about men in positions of power being outed for their sexually inappropriate behaviour.
Over a long time they have abused with impunity.
This has occurred despite many in the various industries knowing about the behaviour.
The health industry has its own share of sexual harassers who every one knows about but no one does anything about it.
All these instances raise questions about sexual violence and harassment.
Why is it difficult for victims and survivors to come forward?
Why aren’t they believed when they do?
Why is there a flood of reporting once a case is reported upon?
How some men have offended for so long with impunity?
What can be done to prevent reoccurrence of these cases?
Regardless of the context in which assault occurs, the victim-survivors face barriers in disclosing.
The barriers that occur are:
• fear of not being believed
• fear their experience will be dismissed or trivialised
• belief the incident wasn’t “serious” enough to tell anyone about
• fear of retaliation from the perpetrator
• believing there was nothing that could be done about it
• wanting to move on from or forget the incident
• confusion about what happened
Most victim-survivors will tell someone.
And how that person reacts is important in what happens next.
Positive responses such as validation expression of belief aids recovery and encourages reporting to the appropriate authorities.
Negative responses such as victim blame or disbelief can shut down any further disclosure.
Perpetrators rely upon their position to silence victims, often by saying that no-one will believe them if they do disclose, or by threatening to destroy their reputation.
A common threat through the mea culpas is the insightlessness of the perpetrators themselves.
They claim that they were not aware that their behaviour was not appropriate.
Here is a short except about self awareness where the author Tasha Eurich says that self awareness is a rare quality. NPR sexual harassment and self awareness (4.44min)
And that only 10-15% of people are aware of the impact their behaviours have on others.
The more power that people hold the less self aware they are.
A reckoning is required to make those in power be responsible for their actions.
Tara Eurich provides an example (15.50 min) about a boss who was clueless about their behaviour in a TED talk.
As nurses, we have all worked with someone who has no idea their behaviours impact negatively on fellow workers.
And when someone discloses that they have had an unpleasant experience because of a jerk, listen and believe them.
Then deal with the jerk.