From the Editor: Take a stand against sexual assault

Two out of three sexual assaults are not reported to the police, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

Sexual harassment can be physical or verbal and becomes distressing to those affected. Do they speak up or do they stay quiet and act oblivious to the situation?

This is the unimaginable question many sexual harassment victims toss back and forth.

Harvey Weinstein, an American film producer, was recently confronted with allegations of sexual harassment for initiating unwanted physical contact on women for over three decades. So far, 38 actresses and film industry figures have stepped forward with similar allegations against Weinstein.

They claimed to have been invited individually into a room where Weinstein would sexually assault them and force himself upon them. All of the women who have come forward were young, aspiring female actresses, including Cara Delevingne, Kate Beckinsale and Angelina Jolie.

Following these reports, Weinstein was fired from The Weinstein Company, 42 percent of which he and his brother owned. The case is still under private investigation.

However, in many cases, concerns of those affected by sexual harrassment may be that their complaints won’t be taken seriously and they will have to continue working under uncomfortable conditions. Depending on how the human resources department handles such a situation, you could continue having to work with the one accused.

Yes, there are options: You can quit your job or you can remain at a standstill for the sake of the money, but neither option works out in the victim’s favor.

Sexual assault should be handled in a serious matter. If a company does not take the appropriate steps in an investigation, the victim of the assault may continue to feel harassed where they spend a large portion of their time. There needs to be repercussions taken to punish those who committed a crime, thus reducing the rates of future sexual harassment.

Over half of the claims of sexual harassment in 2015 made to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency that enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination, have resulted in no charge.

After the EEOC was asked to review 6,822 sexual harassment allegations in 2015, 52 percent were ignored because there was “no reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred.” Twenty five percent of these allegations resulted in action taken to resolve the charges, while the other 23 percent of the harassment claims were closed for unknown administrative reasons.

Cosmopolitan surveyed 2,235 full- and part-time female employees and found that one third of women between the ages of 18 and 34 said they have experienced workplace sexual harassment at some point.

With the prevalence of social media in everyday life, the environment of the workplace may be becoming less professional.

Co-workers are often friends on Facebook, or followers on Twitter or Instagram. There is a blurred line between someone’s privacy and professionalism when interacting on these sites. Many companies have expanded their sexual harassment policies to include inappropriate exchange of online comments.

When these social media and networking sites are used appropriately, they can be effective to promote the company and bring together those who work for it, but things take a turn when inappropriate comments are made. Therefore, employers and employees should think twice when posting on social media sites.

While the majority of people who file sexual harassment cases to the EEOC are women, men are also victims of sexual harassment. Of the 6,822 cases in 2015, 17.1 percent were filed by men.

There are no exact statistics as to why there are fewer filed claims of men being sexually harassed.

Anyone who is being harassed should file a claim. There are always ways to get help and take a stand to address past incidents and prevent future ones.

If you are experiencing sexual harassment of any kind, you can file a charge through www.eeoc.gov or call the sexual assault hotline 800-656-4673. 

The weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News. This week’s editorial was written by the opinion editor, Hayley Fahey.

Printed in the 10/18/17 issue. 

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