As individuals committed to advancing the safety, well-being, and economic security for survivors of gender-based violence, 2018 was a roller coaster ride filled with highs and lows. From accountability for perpetrators of workplace sexual harassment, to survivors finally being heard and believed, there was much to celebrate. But at the same time, we also witnessed failures by employers to meaningfully respond to the momentum of the #MeToo movement.
If someone asked me #HowIWillChange when I first joined FUTURES and the movement to end gender-based violence, I would have responded “I don’t need to change. I’m a black and gay civil rights attorney. I know something about oppression and violence.”
Like clockwork, as one workplace sexual harassment scandal fades from the news, another story emerges to take its place. The contours are generally the same: a powerful man, whether it’s at Uber, at Fox News or in Hollywood, sexually harasses his colleagues for decades and faces no real repercussions until his behavior makes the headlines.
Regardless of where we end up, most of us enter the workforce through low-wage service jobs. They are a critical acculturation experience that shape employees' expectations of acceptable behavior throughout their working lives. The Chicago-based Coalition Against Workplace Sexual Violence, which I co-founded, just released a report detailing low-wage workers' experiences of sexual violence and the inadequacies of existing responses to address it.
University of Iowa Survey Finds That Even Relatively Well-Prepared Businesses Aren’t Very Well-Prepared for Workplace Violence
A survey from the University of Iowa shows that many companies have significant gaps in how they prepare for the potential for workplace violence, even though more businesses are taking the possibility for such a threat seriously.
John Joseph Boswell, the chief executive of a barrel manufacturing company, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor sexual abuse for groping a maid at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington.
But over time, court rulings prompted businesses to affirmatively respond to sexual harassment in the workplace. Many companies established anti-harassment policies with complaint procedures, and some trained employees, supervisors and management on what constituted inappropriate behavior. I was an employment attorney, specializing in harassment, discrimination and workplace safety. Even with my expertise, and with an anti-harassment policy in place, I was subjected to sexual harassment by a client and then encouraged to participate in the “harmless flirting” in order to keep the client happy.
What I experienced was not the exception – it was the norm.
After signing in at the front office, Cedric Anderson, 53, was supposed to drop something off Monday morning for his wife, Karen Elaine Smith, 53, a teacher at North Park Elementary School in San Bernardino, Calif. Instead, he walked into Smith’s special needs classroom, opened fire and killed her, a student and then himself.
To those of us who work to end violence against women every day, this is a familiar story.