In light of the massive Harvey Weinstein scandal that has shaken Hollywood to the core, decades of allegations and misconducts have been brought to the public attention. Allegations on years of sexual harassment and even assault were filed by several women, from prominent actresses to former political staffs with the hope of bringing the predators to justice.
Considering that these behaviours happened without investigation for decades, many have questioned the effectiveness of management policies and even the women themselves. Why did they let this happen, why didn’t they report? After all, It is only filling a couple of complaints to the Human Resources department, isn’t it?
In reality, the situation is very different. In a 2015 survey by Cosmopolitan, only 29 percent of women facing sexual harassment actually reported the incident. Instead of asking why they would not report, we should ask what are the odds that are stacked so much against them.
Like in Weinstein’s case, many victims of sexual harassment were inferior in terms of socioeconomic mobility. Most victims-survivors were too afraid of losing their livelihood and facing retaliation of the often well-connected, wealthy and powerful perpetrators. As actress Lauren O’Connor, in her own memo, wrote: “I am a 28-year-old woman trying to make a living and a career. Harvey Weinstein is a 64-year-old, world famous man and this is his company.The balance of power is me: 0, Harvey Weinstein: 10.” A research by the Australian Government even illustrates how perpetrators use fears, intimidations, and threats to silence victims of sexual abuse, showing how vulnerable a victim can be after the assault.
Women in more conservative regions of the world also face pressure from their own community. Often being blamed for wearing too skimpy clothes or even actively seducing the assaulter, the victims find around them judgemental eyes instead of any support. Therefore, the shame and stigma usually prevent victims of sexual harassment and assaults to come forth.
While not suffering as much as their counterparts in other places, white-collar women in developed nations also face the same cultural barrier at work. Many inappropriate behaviors, considered as harmless jokes by co-workers, are creating a hostile climate to these women. In order to assimilate into the company, it is not uncommon for the victims to just endure and sweep everything under the carpet. As one U.S congresswoman asserted: “Unfortunately there’re times in life where I have to play dumb. Saying that I know what you’re up to and what you’re insinuating just puts me in a bad position. It exposes me. Sometimes it’s better to pretend that I’m not catching on so that I can keep those cards close and use them when I need them.”.
There is no easy solution to sexual harassment but we can give the victims the courage to speak out. Fear and isolation force people to stay quiet so support is the best thing anyone can give. Whether it is support from families and friends or a survivors’ community, the attention and care will help the victims know that they are not alone and may encourage them to report. The newly created #Metoo campaign has not only form a platform for victims to share their stories but also give them a supportive and sympathetic community. Its success has brought a wave of allegations shocking politics and business to the core, helping to raise public awareness in a once neglected subject. There should also be more legal counselling to the reporters about the process of investigation and its progress. Because of the complex nature of these type of crime, the victims should have sufficient legal information to know that they are protected.
There is no way to tell how many have been a victim of sexual harassment and it is nearly impossible to help them all but that is no reason to stop trying. The #Metoo campaign is only the the beginning of what we are capable of and we can and must do more than that.