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The real cost of workplace sexual harassment to businesses

It’s time to get down to brass tacks. The real cost of workplace sexual harassment to businesses is devastating to the bottom line. Higher turnover, absenteeism, and lowered productivity are just the beginning of the results of a recent study, “Me Too: Does Workplace Sexual Harassment Hurt Firm Value?”, which looked at trends at thousands of companies.

It’s time to address sexual harassment in the workplace head on. Here are some insights from this study for CEOs and other business leaders to consider: Workplace sexual harassment is a serious and widespread issue – one that impacts the bottom line. Researchers found that sexual harassment in the workplace costs thousands of dollars per employee.

Not only does sexual harassment hurt a company’s bottom line, but it also negatively impacts employee well-being. Employees deserve to feel safe and confident that leadership will address instances of sexual harassment, misconduct and abuse swiftly.

Sexual harassment affects bystanders. Too often researchers found atmospheres of fear and intimidation, even retaliation. Leaders must create workspaces where all employees feel empowered, supported, and believed.

Sexual harassment is morally reprehensible. How a company chooses to foster a safe and healthy workplace environment is an important part of demonstrating the company’s values.

All employees deserve to feel safe and respected at work. That’s why RALIANCE is partnering with many companies and organizations to address sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse. For more tips, please check out RALIANCE’s Open Letter to CEOs and Boards of Directors.

Why it’s important for companies to be leaders in addressing mental illness

Staying healthy and happy at work starts with workplaces that support employees. Workplace leaders can make all the difference by prioritizing the safety and well-being of their employees.

The New York Times recently published an article on managing mental illness at work. The author defined mental illness broadly, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Those who have experienced sexual assault, abuse, and harassment and those who support them have some of the highest levels of these forms of mental illness. Many also often feel invisible and suffer in silence. Sexual assault victims represent the largest non-combat group of individuals with PTSD and triggers can range widely. For instance, employees managing the care of children or other loved ones who have been assaulted can bring on/bring back symptoms as well.

Laws protect employees against many forms of discrimination, and employees may seek reasonable adjustments in their work from their employers. In a world where corporate culture often prioritizes productivity over employee health, leaders must change the way we do business. Healthy workplaces where employees are valued and mental illness is not stigmatized balance the needs of the organization with the needs of the employee.

Each day, RALIANCE is helping leaders establish safe environments and strong communities. And in the meantime, this article offers many ideas on how to empower employees and is a call to action for companies to do a better job.

Bumble isn’t just about swiping right…

This week, a bill will become law in Texas criminalizing the sending of unsolicited sexual photos.

While most states have laws that explicitly criminalize the act of exposing one’s genitals in public, few incorporate language that extends criminalization to “unsolicited sexual photos.” Today’s technology, such as text messages, direct messages, AirDrop, email, social media, and dating apps can all be easily used to send unwanted sexual images — with little recourse.

How serious a problem is it? A 2017 YouGov survey found roughly 3 in 4 millennial women have received a message with an uninvited graphic image, or a “dick pic.”  In other words, many individuals are actively choosing to use technology to commit acts of indecent exposure.  

Spearheading the issue is Whitney Wolfe Herd, CEO of popular dating app Bumble who wants to build a workplace where women can thrive. Herd has already taken action to address this issue – sending unsolicited lewd photos on Bumble gets you immediately banned from the app. This move was part of increased safety measures adopted by the app this past April, and we hope Herd’s leadership on this issue influences others to do the same.

At RALIANCE, we’re excited by this work. To end sexual violence in one generation, leaders in tech and commerce must use their influence and reach to establish safe environments and stronger communities. We’re poised to help.

Beyond the Breakthrough: Fighting the Roots of Rape Culture at the Intersections of Race, Gender and Class

It will take all of us to end sexual violence, and the National Sexual Assault Conference (NSAC) is a model for how we can all rally behind this important effort. NSAC brings together nearly 1800 participants across 23 issue-focused tracks, nearly 150 workshops and over 200 speakers. Rounding out this event are the incredible exhibitors and sponsors who play a role in organizing a national conference—including Philadelphia’s WOMEN’S WAY, a nonprofit organization empowering support for equal opportunities for women and girls and taking action in promoting gender equality for all.

WOMEN’S WAY is a champion of strengthening economic supports for women and families and providing leadership opportunities for girls. This year, the organization is providing scholarships for participants to attend the conference. 

Diane Cornman-Levy, the Executive Director of WOMEN’S WAY, sat down with RALIANCE for a conversation connecting the dots between economic access and an inclusive fight to end violence—and highlighting the roots of rape culture.

Read this blog and all the blogs featured in the Beyond The Breakthrough series on Ms Magazine for #NSAC2019!

Beyond the Breakthrough: Preventing Child Sexual Abuse in the Classroom

RALIANCE is excited to join many of our impact grantees at this year’s 2019 National Sexual AssaultConference (NSAC), which is focused on cementing the progress made by the #MeToo movement—and taking it even further. One of our former grantees, the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, does work that has been instrumental in looking at how we intervene before harm occurs and offer support to change behavior, especially among young people. 

Amanda Ruzicka, Director of Research Operations at the Center, sat down with RALIANCE to discuss her NSAC workshop on a new prevention intervention aimed at providing middle school students and their caregivers with knowledge, skills and tools to avoid sexual behavior with younger children.

Read the full blog featured on Ms Magazine as well as all the Beyond the Breakthrough blogs as part of #NSAC2019!

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.

Condemning Violence and Sexual Abuse at the Border

Last week, the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape joined dozens of anti-sexual violence organizations to speak out against the mistreatment of refugees and immigrants held in detention at the U.S. southern border. Around this time last year, RALIANCE also called for an end to the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border and we join our colleagues in opposing this destructive immigration policy.

ANTI-SEXUAL VIOLENCE COALITIONS NATIONWIDE CONDEMN THE MISTREATMENT OF REFUGEES AND IMMIGRANTS HELD IN DETENTION. Demand end to ICE raids and POC community monitoring

The text of the full statement is below and the can also be found here.

State and national sexual assault coalitions across the country are united in condemning the separation of children from family members as well as the violence and dehumanizing conditions faced by people being held in detention. The treatment of adults and children while detained in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) migrant detention centers under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is dehumanizing and therefore unacceptable. It must come to an immediate end.

We represent survivors of and advocates against sexual harassment, abuse and assault throughout the country. Many people coming to the U.S. are fleeing from sexual violence in their countries of origin. As advocates, it is incumbent upon us to bear witness and take action against cruelty.

Whereas there are no less than two immigrant detention centers per state, including Puerto Rico, and 184 centers in the state of Texas, we demand accountability from all officials and legislators for the atrocities that continue within these tax-payer funded detention facilities and camps.

Recorded reports of abuse include the following:

  • Overcrowding
  • Lack of access to clean water and food
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual assault
  • Unsanitary living conditions
  • Medical neglect
  • Verbal/psychological abuse
  • LGBTQ+ discriminatory behavior

_

There have also been reports of systemic and widespread sexual harassment, abuse, and assault occurring in ICE detention facilities across the nation and only 2 percent of complaints having been investigated, in clear violation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) standards. According to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) documents, thousands of migrant children have experienced sexual abuse while in U.S. government custody under the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) since 2015.

Reporters have not been allowed to speak with detainees or to record the conditions inside the facilities. Doctors are not able to access important medical records of refugees due to the lack of transparency from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. These agencies’ policies are unacceptable and undermine advocates working to end and prevent violence, who understand that a culture of silence creates a dangerous environment for violence to run rampant and unchecked.

It is imperative that all legislators, local and national, address the humanitarian crisis at our southern border immediately. We demand the current administration completely end the practice of separating children from their parents and minimize the placement of children and families in detention settings that expose them to further traumatization and dangerous living conditions. Additionally, legislators must work together to support policies that reduce obstacles to good-faith asylum claims, and avoid creating new ones.

We ask our supporters to contact their legislators regarding this statement and mention the concerns we have listed. We demand an end to secrecy by all immigration agencies and an end to the inhumane conditions that refugees are forced to endure inside detention centers and camps. We want an end to U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) raids that unfairly target communities of color and funnel more people into the inhumane conditions within DHS detention facilities. We urge all legislators to take a bipartisan, humanitarian position by acting to protect immigrants and refugees within our borders. Human rights, and the dignity of every person, are not partisan issues.

Other actions include supporting and reaching out to the sponsors of crucial legislation such as:

  • The Northern Triangle and Border Stabilization Act of 2019 (H.R. 3524), which requires better treatment of detained children at the border, including by setting standards for CBP facilities and directing the hiring of child welfare professionals.
  • The Child Trafficking Victims Protection and Welfare Act (S. 661), which provides for the safe and appropriate treatment of children in CBP custody by requiring at least one licensed child welfare professional at ports of entry and Border Patrol stations that regularly hold a large number of children. The bill also provides minimum standards of care for children in CBP custody.

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Together, we can prevent the continued sexual harassment, abuse, and assault of all persons regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or documentation status.

SIGNED: 

ALAS: ALIANZA LATINA EN CONTRA LA AGRESIÓN SEXUAL

AMERICAN SAMOA ALLIANCE AGAINST DOMESTIC AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE

ARTE SANA

ARIZONA COALITION TO END SEXUAL & DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

ARKANSAS COALITION AGAINST SEXUAL ASSAULT

CALIFORNIA COALITION AGAINST SEXUAL ASSAULT

CONNECTICUT ALLIANCE TO END SEXUAL VIOLENCE

COLORADO COALITION AGAINST SEXUAL ASSAULT

FLORIDA COUNCIL AGAINST SEXUAL VIOLENCE

IDAHO COALITION AGAINST SEXUAL & DOMESTIC VIOLENCE 

IOWA COALITION AGAINST SEXUAL ASSAULT

JANE DOE INC. (Massachusetts) 

MAINE COALITION AGAINST SEXUAL ASSAULT

MARYLAND COALITION AGAINST SEXUAL ASSAULT

MINNESOTA COALITION AGAINST SEXUAL ASSAULT

MONTANA COALITION AGAINST DOMESTIC AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE

NATIONAL ALLIANCE TO END SEXUAL VIOLENCE

NEW HAMPSHIRE COALITION AGAINST DOMESTIC AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE 

NEW JERSEY COALITION AGAINST SEXUAL ASSAULT

NEW MEXICO COALITION OF SEXUAL ASSAULT PROGRAMS, INC.

NEW YORK STATE COALITION AGAINST SEXUAL ASSAULT

NEVADA COALITION TO END DOMESTIC AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE

OHIO ALLIANCE TO END SEXUAL VIOLENCE

OREGON COALITION AGAINST DOMESTIC AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE

PENNSYLVANIA COALITION AGAINST RAPE

TEXAS ASSOCIATION AGAINST SEXUAL ASSAULT

VERMONT NETWORK AGAINST DOMESTIC AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE

VIRGINIA SEXUAL AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACTION ALLIANCE

WASHINGTON COALITION OF SEXUAL ASSAULT PROGRAMS

WEST VIRGINIA FOUNDATION FOR RAPE INFORMATION AND SERVICES 

WISCONSIN COALITION AGAINST SEXUAL ASSAULT

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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.” (Babe.net 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

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