Workplace

FiveThirtyEight: After MeToo, More Americans See Sexual Harassment as a Problem, But Partisan Divisions Remain

Are Americans More Divided On #MeToo Issues? Writing at FiveThirtyEight, Meredith Conroy analyzes how opinions on sexual harassment and assault have changed since the beginning of the #MeToo movement. Using recent survey data about the attitudes and beliefs of the U.S. electorate gathered by The Democracy Fund Voter Study Group, Conroy reports:

“On the whole, since 2016, Republicans have grown more skeptical of women who report harassment and the motivation behind their claims. However, members of both parties were more likely to acknowledge that sexual harassment of women in the workplace is a problem in the U.S. in 2018, compared with 2016 — so there is some evidence that more people from both parties view sexual harassment as a problem today than did before.”

As part of our research conducted by Goodwin Simon with the Berkeley Media Studies Group for Where we’re going and where we’ve been: Making the case for preventing sexual violence, RALIANCE learned that when it comes to sexual violence prevention, the messengers are as important as the message and often need to come first.

Here are a few ideas on how we flip the script and see more social change: 

  • Get granular about the journey

Our findings in the messaging guide suggest that conservative audiences “feel even more discomfort, skepticism, and inner conflict about whether prevention is possible. For these people to connect with our message, we may need to tell stories that include more details about the journey and describe more steps in the change process.”

  • Name the harm

Our research suggested that terms got in our way. Phrases like “sexual misconduct” made people think of unwanted overtures, innuendos, and suggestive conversations instead of more egregious actions on a spectrum of behaviors. If men are skeptical of women who report harassment and the motivation behind their claims, it’s time to use plain language, backed up by concrete examples. That is much more effective in helping audiences understand complex ideas.

  • Change is happening — but it takes time

This comparison was of survey data spread across only two years. As shown by the outpouring of support and criticism during and after the Kavanaugh hearings, we have a long way to go in this conversation. Much more needs to be done to engage men and boys as part of the solution. That includes moving from understanding that there is a problem to holding those accountable for their behaviors.

Learn more about what RALIANCE is doing to support survivor-centered policies and legislative initiatives!

Correcting the Record on Human Trafficking

With the recent arrest of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft in Florida as part of a broader law enforcement sting operation, and challenging issues involving human trafficking and sexual exploitation were thrust back into the public spotlight.

Human trafficking is a serious and widespread problem that impacts thousands of people across the United States and the world. Women of color, transgender people, children and other marginalized populations are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking.

Although the recent news has prompted an important dialogue about trafficking, it has also revealed widespread public misconceptions about the issue. Here are three things everyone should know about human trafficking:

Human trafficking is a form of sexual violence.

The behaviors that comprise sexual violence exist on a spectrum, from sexual harassment to violent assault. When individuals who are underage and/or unable to choose are forced into sex work without their consent, that is inarguably a form of sexual violence. Like all forms of sexual violence, the victims of trafficking deserve support and are never to blame. Serious cases like this one aren’t fodder for jokes or trash talk between rival sports fans. Reports of sex trafficking increase each year in the United States, and rates of trafficking frequently rise in conjunction with major sporting events which draw large crowds and increase demand for sex.

All of us have a role to play in helping to end trafficking, which can occur right in front of us in plain sight — on streets, in hotels and motels, at truck stops and airports, in restaurants and massage parlors, and in our own neighborhoods.

Sexual exploitation should NEVER be for sale.

There are important distinctions when we talk about human trafficking. Trafficking victims are exploited and forced into actions without their consent. Human traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to manipulate adult victims into engaging in commercial sex acts in exchange for money, debt repayment, or something of value. According to the U.S. Department of Human Services, individuals, circumstances, and situations vulnerable to traffickers include homeless individuals, runaway teens, displaced people, refugees, foreign workers on visas, migrant workers, international and domestic job seekers, foreign nationals looking for better life opportunities in the United States, children and adolescents, people with drug addictions.

There is a power dynamic that must be acknowledged whereby consent and choice are taken from trafficked individuals. Conflating sexual exploitation with  prostitution is disturbingly common in public discourse, a trend that only serves to reinforce the stigma sex workers face while simultaneously minimizing the harm to trafficking victims by diminishing the impact of their exploitation.

Ending trafficking requires systemic change and holding the powerful accountable.

While individual cases can serve as important moments to focus the public’s attention on this important issue, no one law enforcement action can end systemic problems. Instead, we must keep the focus on the broader cultural factors that enable sex trafficking. Trafficking is driven by supply and demand: the demand for commercial sex regardless of the conditions, treatment, and well-being of those involved leads traffickers to commit serious crimes and violate the consent and dignity of their victims, all in an effort to provide a sufficient supply to meet the demand. Both the traffickers and those driving demand and supporting the industry must be held accountable.

Leaders of organizations like sports teams, Fortune 500 companies, or political offices have a particularly important role to play. Organizations can and should hold every member of their staff accountable for actions that violate organizational values and their code of conduct. Leaders also set an example for members of their organization and the general public to follow that by not participating in the commercial sex industry, they can reduce the demand for sex trafficking.

For more information about human trafficking, please visit NSVRC’s toolkit on Sexual Assault Response.

The Human Trafficking National Hotline [is 1-888-373-7888.


Re-imagining Restaurant Culture

The James Beard Foundation recently featured an article by Caitlin Corcoran, a restaurant owner in Missouri and a 2018 Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership fellow on building safety within the food and beverage industry.

#MeToo has helped foster a reckoning in Hollywood as well as other cultural institutions like the music and restaurant industries.

Corcoran describes how her experiences as a restaurant owner and a survivor with non-supportive and dismissive managers inspired her to re-imagine hospitality. Much of the issue was having tools for staff to address boundary-pushing behaviors. But the Corcoran also saw the potential in change restaurant culture more broadly. Restaurants have long been an offshoot of our local communities – a space where we gather socially and communally – and she saw an opportunity to improve restaurant culture more broadly.  

“I realized it was not enough just to intervene in a given moment at my establishment. I needed to go a step further and re-evaluate my business’s policies on safety for both staff and guests,” Corcoran said in the article.

She highlights how important it is to foster an organizational culture where respect and civility are promoted and harassment is swiftly and proportionally addressed. All too often, organizations focus too much on targets, harassers, and legal compliance. As outlined in RALIANCE’s open letter to CEOs and Boards, best practice is investing in staff so that all employees, regardless of position, are empowered to change their workplace culture.

Corcoran also worked directly with the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA) in Kansas City to create a training program to change the culture in restaurants. SAFE (Sexual Assault Free Environment) empowers participants to prioritize a culture where everyone feels safe.

Everyone plays a role in building safer workplaces and communities, and Corcoran’s work is an example of how companies and their leaders can partner with sexual violence prevention advocates to stamp out sexual harassment, misconduct and abuse one and for all.

How airlines can help prevent in-flight sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse

Sexual misconduct on crowded airlines is happening more often (Los Angeles Times — Hugo Martin), and airlines – like all corporations – can do quite a bit towards preventing it.

Sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse impact all of us. With these acts  often occurring in public places, it’s not surprising that reports of misconduct on commercial flights are on the rise.

Here are some key ways that airlines can do more to prevent sexual violence during flights:

Adopt a standard set of protocols for addressing incidents of sexual harassment, misconduct and abuse;

Offer better sexual violence prevention training for staff;

Collect better data on reports of sexual assault incidents; and

Consistently remind passengers that these behaviors are not acceptable, and that airlines are prioritizing the safety of passengers and crews.

“That proximity of an airplane makes it extra uncomfortable. […] They could start doing some consistent messaging and campaigning to let them know it’s a priority.”

From college campuses to the military, we know that raising awareness about sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse is an important step to preventing these types of bad behaviors from happening and ensuring victims can safely report any experiences of sexual violence. Passengers deserve to feel safe and respected while traveling, and airlines must ensure that message is always communicated.

Uber and NSVRC release new taxonomy to tackle sexual violence

In Uber’s new policy blog, “Counting it is the first step towards ending it,” Uber’s Chief Legal Officer Tony West and Kristen Houser, Chief Public Affairs Officer at RALIANCE and our partner organization the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, unveil a new taxonomy developed in partnership with the Urban Institute to help categorize incidents of sexual misconduct and sexual assault reported on the Uber platform.

Around the world, from corporate boardrooms to government offices, data drives decision-making.

So when it comes to sexual harassment, misconduct and assault, which is significantly underreported and thus lacks widely available data – particularly for acts that may not be considered criminal such as inappropriate comments – having very clear data is critical to pursuing sustainable solutions that will help end sexual violence in one generation. The new taxonomy categorizes reports of sexually violent experiences based on very specific, easy to understand language based on human behavior. Using and categorizing this more precise language will ultimately increase the availability of data and drive appropriate courses of prevention activity, ultimately informing how best to support users of the Uber platform.

As Tony and Kristen write:

These challenges create a landscape in which the limited information that is reported out provides only an incomplete and fragmented understanding of the true scope and scale of sexual violence. The value of a carefully-developed taxonomy for reported incidents of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, or sexual assault is that it can increase consistency and help us to identify trends, thereby informing the development of more effective response and prevention efforts.

This new taxonomy is a step towards Uber’s goal of creating transparency reports for sexual violence that are shareable and useful to support and advance similar efforts in other businesses and industries. RALIANCE applauds this effort and we see this as the latest step in our mission to end sexual violence in one generation.

Open Letters to Prevent Sexual Harassment, Misconduct and Abuse in the Workplace

RALIANCE, a Washington, DC-based national partnership dedicated to ending sexual violence in one generation, recently partnered with teamed up with human capital professionals Huntbridge, and Kindall Evolve to provide training, tools and consulting to help companies working to strengthen their sexual harassment policies and procedures. The collaboration published a series of four open letters… …

It’s Time To Move The Needle On Sexual Violence In Corporate America

For anyone who has experienced sexual harassment or other kinds of sexual intimidation to hear that for decades Bill O’Reilly may have repeatedly sexually harassed numerous coworkers while his employer, Fox News, stood by, it may feel like yet another example of sexual harassment and sexual violence not being taken seriously in this country. …

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