Regarding violence and harassment in the workplace: “Since the outbreak of COVID-19, emerging data and reports from those on the front lines, have shown that all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, has intensified. This is the Shadow Pandemic growing amidst the COVID-19 crisis and we need a global collective effort to stop it.” UN.org Message for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, 25 November
Harassment In The Workplace and In Our Communities
Many of us take for granted the expectations that we have in our life. The freedom to hold a job, the freedom to raise a family, the freedom to vote, the ability to speak up and the expectation of being safe. This is not the case for all women. How unbelievable in this day and age, that around the world, women are being abused, harassed, and put down, just because they are women.
Violence and harassment against women can take many forms – physical, sexual, psychological and economic. The United Nations states that one-third of women will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. This is not something that is just happening on the other side of the world. It is also happening in our own communities and workplaces. From little girls who are hunted by predators through the internet, to a neighbour who we suspect is being emotionally abused by their spouse, to harassment in our workplaces were leaders take advantage of their position in order to gain more power.
The Shadow Pandemic and Harassment In The Workplace
These abusers and harassers are well hidden amongst us. They are not wearing the mask of a monster. They look like everyone else in the crowd.
Most of us are unaware that there is a Shadow Pandemic growing amidst the COVID-19 crisis. As COVID-19 cases continue to strain health services, essential services, such as domestic violence shelters and helplines, have reached capacity. Abuse survivors suddenly find themselves shut in with their abusers. Forced coexistence, job loss, escalating stress and anxiety about the future has led to increased household tension, which turned many partners into abusers and exacerbated existing abuse. Those women on the frontlines and in customer service roles continue to take the abuse from angry and dissatisfied customers who are projecting their anxiety and frustration on to those who are trying to serve them more so than their male counterparts.
Many people wrongfully assume that violence and harassment issues in the workplace would decrease during this business disruption with more employees working from home than ever before. Because of the COVID-19 lockdown, upper management may not be aware that different forms of workplace harassment are occurring. While employees are no longer physically present at the same location, they continue to message each other through online applications, gather for virtual meetings, and join group phone chats. These methods of communication aren’t always supervised, which leads to issues.
However, employers need to be even more aware of the safety of their employees while working from home. Is the home a safe place for them to work? Can bullying be even more rampant, now that know one else may witness the inappropriate behaviours? Is everyone aware of the policies and procedures to addressing these issues?
Beverly’s Tips For Addressing Harassment In The Workplace and Celebrating International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women:
Violence and harassment in the workplace is often an unspoken and unaddressed issue for many reasons, we:
- don’t want to get involved
- are afraid to rock the boat
- don’t want to become a victim ourself
- are scared or the repercussions
- are unsure
- don’t want to butt in
- feel helpless
But there comes a time when you may be at a cross-roads, so:
- Be aware. Look for the signs that someone around you is being abused or harassed.
- Be a support. Talk about healthy and respectful relationships at work and at home. Listen if someone wants to talk.
- Know what resources are available in your community and share those with everyone.
- If you are being abused or harassed, know that it doesn’t have to be this way. Abuse, no matter the form that it takes, is unacceptable. You can not have done anything to deserve being treated in an abusive way. It is not normal. And you deserve better.
- Reach out for help. If you are being abused or harassed. Talk to someone. A colleague, supervisor, human resources professional, an EAP, a friend or a community advisor may help to give you the information and perspective that you need.
Help stop the cycle of harassment and abuse. If you are raising children, help them to deal with their feelings in a responsible and respectful way. Click to tweet
Promote Harassment Strategies In The Workplace
In the workplace, it is important to address these issues of violence and harassment in an on-going basis. Talk about what violence and harassment look like. Make bold statements that abuse, violence, and harassment of any kind is not acceptable and let them know where they can turn for help if they ever find themselves in a difficult situation. This is not just a one-time lesson, it needs to be addressed over and over again.
NOTE: Here is a chart of risk factors for harassment and responsive strategies as recommended by the EEOC that may provide a way to review your particular workplace and to start conversations around policies and changes that may be needed. https://www.eeoc.gov/chart-risk-factors-harassment-and-responsive-strategies.
My hope is that one day, there will be no need to recognize this day calling for the Elimination of Violence Against Women because violence and harassment in the workplace and in our communities will be foreign and unthinkable by all in our society.
Contact Beverly about hosting a workshop for your leaders on addressing harassment and holiding supportive mental health conversations. Learn strategies to encourage an engaging, safe working environment!
If you have some strategies to share – comment on this posting!