Man’s inhumanity to … woman | Moment's Notice

By Maria Montalvo | Apr 30, 2017

The well-known phrase “man’s inhumanity to man” was first read as a line in a Robert Burns poem. The poem is not part of our lexicon, but the phrase is, and the last edition of this newspaper presented two examples of the concept.

One called “Dumb Hate” involved swastikas and words spray-painted on cars in Edmonds and Esperance; the other was about whether or not there is a culture of sexual harassment in the city.

As a member of the Edmonds Diversity Commission, the swastika story instigated an immediate response (public statement) and widespread and deserved condemnation. But the other story nagged at me.

Weeks ago, when the Bill O’Reilly harassment scandal at Fox News broke, I honestly did not react too strongly because 1), I was not surprised based on prior issues at the network and 2), I had pretty low expectations of a reasonable response.

Then, the following week, one of the students I work with, Sarah, blogged about her experience with sexual harassment. Sarah attends one of the most prestigious schools in the country and been selected to study with leading minds on how to respond to outbreaks of disease, and she will soon be one of the experts who can protect us.

She has also been sexually harassed at every internship and job during her university career. Every single one. Each opportunity to learn and be inspired and become a great scientist was affected by sexual harassment.

This week, we are reading the article involving the Edmonds Police Department. Facts show that sexual harassment and assault took place. Facts show that many in the department tried to do the right thing.

Asking if there is a culture of sexual harassment in the city is not the right question. Understanding how we treat the issue is the key.

The phrase “sexual harassment” often brings eye rolls, as it has been poured into a toxic bucket of perceived overreaction in the name of political correctness.

So let’s kick over the bucket.

Harassment is not the same as assault, but fear and potential escalation are real. For example, Sarah was once removed from a field project because of concerns for her safety following disturbing harassment.

One in four women will fall prey to sexual assault while pursuing a higher education – one in four, 25 percent, one of the four sisters you knew in high school, one of the four inseparable best friends since sixth-grade.

And that is assault and rape; the numbers for harassment are even higher. Many of these young women drop out or delay their education as a result.

More than half of the American workforce has experienced sexual harassment (80 percent of those were women). Not a compliment about looking nice, but threats of termination, propositions of an explicit nature being made to nearly one in two of the women you know.

One of those being me. In two jobs, one coworker and one boss. I almost quit the job that eventually got me to where I am today, making sure remarkable students are able to pursue their dreams.

One of the most effective deterrents to bad behavior is encouraging others to be “active bystanders” – to speak up or intervene in a non-aggressive manner. An individual can prevent something before it has a chance to escalate.

Universities are now required to train students in how to be active bystanders, because that prevents sexual harassment and assault. Prevention means someone does not have to question their value, their self-worth, their capacity to be successful.

Sometimes it is not enough, but sometimes – friends speaking up for friends, teammates and coworkers calling each other out and neighbors speaking up when something is out of line – it is.

This is not about a particular news story. It is about a bucket of denial that can be eradicated, with our words and our actions, to best demonstrate humanity toward each other.

 

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