How the hotel industry can help end sexual violence and human trafficking

The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) employs 8 million workers in the U.S. lodging industry and has chosen to use the attention they command to begin a conversation about combating human trafficking. On July 30, AHLA announced their No Room for Trafficking Campaign through a public service announcement. No Room for Trafficking displays the hotel industry’s comprehensive approach to fighting human trafficking. This is a wonderful example of an industry using their power and leverage to enact positive change and create safer, more equitable workplaces where violence is not tolerated, AHLA provides an empowering example for other industries, demonstrating that focusing on prevention before harm occurs is being part of the solution to ending sexual violence in one generation.

“In the fight against human trafficking, the hotel industry is united in our commitment to being part of the solution,” said Chip Rogers, AHLA President & CEO. “By taking action to provide human trafficking awareness training for our employees and the sharing of hotel industry best practices, we hope to serve as an example for other industries, while finding new opportunities to partner across the tourism sector and those joining us in this important fight.” Read the full AHLA Press Release.

AHLA has formed partnerships with a wide range of national organizations, all dedicated to promoting workplace safety and preventing sexual violence. This list includes: ECPAT-USAPolarisBESTNational Sexual Violence Resource CenterNational Alliance to End Sexual ViolenceDC Rape Crisis CenterNational Domestic Violence HotlinePeace Over ViolenceRALIANCERAINNSafe House Project, and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

No Room For Trafficking begins with public awareness, but it also includes intensive training for industry staff on how to identify and respond effectively to situations. Additionally, it establishes a companywide policy and promotes sharing success stories and best practices.

We commend AHLA for using their position in the public eye to promote a conversation about stopping sexual violence, and we encourage other organizations and industries to join RALIANCE and partners such as AHLA in the fight to stamp out sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse once and for all.

Trend Alert: NWLC finds more states are strengthening workplace reforms

A year after #MeToo went viral, state-level legislation strengthening workplace harassment laws have become a growing trend. So far, 15 states have enacted workplace policy reforms, all documented in a new report from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC): Progress in Advancing Me Too Workplace Reforms in #20Statesby2020.  

States are recognizing that employers should:

Require preventative anti-harassment training.

Prohibit nondisclosure agreements as a condition of employment or as part of a settlement agreement.

Expand protections to include independent contractors, interns, or graduate students.

Extend the statute of limitations for filing a harassment claim.

Over 300 state legislators from 40 states and Washington DC have signed the #20Statesby2020 pledge, promising to work with survivors and afflicted communities to build robust policy solutions. Preventative policies are essential to reducing harm in workplaces, schools, and assisted care facilities.

“To prevent sexual harassment at work, we must start by addressing it in schools since the treatment and behavior students experience from their peers, teachers, and administrators ultimately shapes workplace norms around gender, race, respect, and accountability.”

(NWLC, Page 4)

Sexual violence isn’t a bipartisan issue. It’s important that all state governments take an interest in the safety of their constituents at work and at school. Read the NWLC report to investigate the movement in your state. Additionally, a helpful resource is the Workplaces Respond to Domestic & Sexual Violence National Resource Center by Futures Without Violence, which supports survivors, employers, co-workers, and advocates.

At RALIANCE, we believe companies have a responsibility to promote a safe work environment that is committed to the well-being of all employees. We also help companies enact systemic cultural change which prevents sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse. Learn more online.

Aziz Ansari wearing a tuxedo at a red carpet event

Aziz Ansari is back – are we ready for redemption?

Ansari’s fall from grace deepened a crucial divide in the #MeToo reckoning, according to Vox’s Caroline Framke, exposing this duality of the “good feminist ally” who wore his Time’s Up pin proudly who also acted this way. Now the guy who wrote the book on Modern Romance is poised for a comeback. His new stand-up comedy special, “Aziz Ansari: Right Now,” premiered today on Netflix, in which he addresses the sexual misconduct.  

It begs the question in the #MeToo era: Are we ready to talk about redemption songs? 

According to the woman whose story sparked Aziz’s #MeToo spotlight, Ansari texted her later stating: “Clearly I misread things in the moment and I’m truly sorry.” ( January 2018). Also in this text he discusses his intention, not his impact. Far too often a so-called apology focuses on what was meant or wasn’t meant in the moment but does not acknowledge the harm. This is not an apology.

Inherent in this story is our tendency to want to boil down it all down to “he said, she said,” a dynamic that ignores the fact that people who do these things often make strategic choices to ensure there aren’t other witnesses, as well as all the ways cultural, social, and gender cues play into dating, sex, and relationships. Dating norms and assumptions are shaped by our culture – often not in healthy ways. Ansari took some time away from the spotlight to reflect on this incident.

#MeToo kindled a fire that is burning its way through organizations, industries, and our communities. The anger and pain caused by years of being silenced and ignored are still red-hot. We have yet to really focus on prevention – we can intervene earlier and change behaviors. We have to. There are no throw-away people. There’s no voting anyone off the island. What if they, too, want to have a comedy show on Netflix and want to be back in all of our good graces?  

Here’s a possible ruler – Did you:

Own it. You messed up. Don’t avoid or ignore it – take responsibility for your mistake.

Be proactive and seek help. Asking for help is a sign of strength and growth.

Put in place measures so this doesn’t happen again. Get an accountability buddy. Look at policies in your organization.

It doesn’t go away, but you learn to accept it. You caused harm. This does not define your entire character. Use this information to be better and do better.

What #MeToo started is a cultural revolution and building healthier and safer spaces takes time. It would be easy to focus on individual accountability and forget about community and wider societal accountability. We can also ask Netflix and other corporations and businesses what policies and practices are in place to ensure the artists they work with adhere to the standards and values they have as an organization? For more information about what employees, managers, HR professionals and even Boards of Directors can do, check out RALIANCE’s series of open letters.

Photo by David Shankbone. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported

Why it’s Important the 2020 Democratic Presidential Debates Talk About #MeToo

The legacy of #MeToo means candidates must address sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse as part of their platforms – and, importantly, how these topics will be prevented and addressed within their own campaigns. This week’s first Democratic presidential debate is an opportunity to that.

Time’s Up representatives Eva Longoria, Ana Navarro, and Hilary Rosen recently penned an important op ed noting the significant role of the moderators in these debates to shape the questions posed to the candidates. They wrote, “It’s true that women and people of color share plenty of concerns with white men. But asking those general questions isn’t enough: We need to know how the candidates would approach issues that are of special concern to female voters.”

As the presidential debates kick off, we thought we’d share some best practices for how political candidates can talk about sexual violence prevention and champion safe, healthy and harassment-free workplaces and environments while on the campaign trail:   

Be proactive. Promote a culture of respect and inclusion. In many ways, how campaigns structure and treat their staff sends a message about the political candidate’s broader values and priorities. As the leaders of their campaigns, political candidates and their senior staff are responsible for modeling good behavior and setting norms and standards for a work environment that promotes the safety and well-being of all employees.

Maintain a clear and comprehensive anti-harassment policy. Candidates should put into place transparent policies, procedures, and reporting mechanisms that include training and awareness – not just for how victims may report but on addressing the inappropriate behaviors that enabled this to happen in the first place.

Talk about how all of us can do better to help end sexual violence in one generation. Here’s an example of what a candidate could say: “Sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse have no place in our workplaces, and it’s on all of us to look out for each other. That starts with training and awareness, but it doesn’t stop there. To end sexual violence, we all must work to build a culture based on mutual respect, safety and equality.”

Pledge to put more funding and resources to support survivors and expand access to prevention education. Addressing the serious gaps in such issues as reducing the rape kit backlog, addressing sexual assault on campuses as well as in our military requires a significant economic investment.

For more tips, check out these RALIANCE resources: What Bernie should have said about allegations of sexual harassment on his campaign and Advice to 2020 Political Candidates and Campaigns.

5 Key Tips for Organizations to Improve Their Workplace Culture

Last week, approximately 100 Google employees, community activists and investors joined together to protest at Alphabet’s shareholder meeting and demanded change from the company on how it handles workplace issues, including sexual harassment and misconduct policies. Google is not alone. Companies and institutions across the country are grappling with these issues. With many thanks to the MeToo and Time’s Up movements, we are finally talking about accountability and prevention and starting to see a true public reckoning with attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs that must change.

So what can companies do to improve their sexual harassment policies and workplace culture?

While all employees have a role to play in the workplace culture, leadership comes from the top and chief executives and board of directors are ultimately responsible for establishing and maintaining an organizational culture where respect and civility are promoted and harassment is swiftly and proportionally addressed.

Here are a few key tips to consider –

Follow the best practices to prevent sexual harassment and misconduct in your organization. 

Identify conditions that place employees at risk.

Maintain a clear and comprehensive anti-harassment policy.

Implement training that works.

Promote a culture of respect and inclusion.

Change requires leadership and accountability.

Read our entire HR Open Letter Medium series published in April 2018 for more insights.

Our open letters addressed specific ideas for how to prevent harm to all the stakeholders in an organization: CEOs and boards of directors, CHROs and human resources executives, managers and supervisors; and importantly employees as the first line of defense. In addition to the best practices listed above, everyone in an organization can be an educated and engaged bystander. Companies can use employee surveys, engage their boards effectively, and boost educational efforts internally. Engaging outside help to review policies and coach leadership about impacting behaviors in the workplace is a wise investment in promoting a healthy work environment and limiting the risk of sexual harassment and misconduct going unaddressed.

Statement on Roy Moore’s announcement to run for the US Senate in 2020

“Roy Moore’s announcement is a direct affront to survivors of sexual violence and the people of Alabama. His attempt to re-enter public life without taking ownership of the irreparable harm he has done should be a reminder that, now more than ever, we need to hold accountable those who use their positions of power to exploit and abuse the most vulnerable in our society.

“Not too long ago, a critical mass of voters in Alabama made a powerful statement: sexual violence and abuse won’t be tolerated from public officials. We are in a watershed moment for sexual violence prevention and survivors and women across the country will be counting on the voters of Alabama to make sure we don’t go back.”.

Read the statement.

Stand Up, Don’t Stand By – with Uber and NO MORE

A safer world – free from sexual harassment, misconduct and abuse – begins when we look out for each other. RALIANCE supports the Stand up, Don’t Stand By” campaign spearheaded by two of our partners: Uber and NO MORE. Since this campaign launched last fall, they have been partnering with local law enforcement, nightlife community, and local rape crisis centers to promote public safety and help prevent sexual assault before it starts. 

What started out in two nightlife hubs – Las Vegas and Los Angeles – is now expanding to new cities including DC, Seattle, and Philadelphia. The message is clear – everyone has a role to play in ensuring respect, safety, and fun are all a part of going out.

“We can all do a better job of watching out for each other in social settings. And help can be just a few steps away—a bartender, a waiter, a bouncer. By sharing this message, we can raise awareness about the importance of bystander intervention and help create a safer world for everyone.”


At RALIANCE, we believe in engaging all voices in the fight to end sexual violence in one generation. RALIANCE and NO MORE partner on solutions to educate more communities about preventing all forms of violence. RALIANCE also joined forces with Uber in 2017 to drive innovation and make lasting, impactful changes to the safety needs across the entire commuter transportation industry.

Watch the Stand Up, Don’t Stand By video and encourage your friends and community to join the campaign in stamping out sexual violence once and for all.  

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.

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