Violence and assault against women is a troubling issue that is seeping into every aspect of society. The statistics for abuse are both terrifying and disheartening. In 2016, a woman was killed every week at the hands of their partner or male relative and 1 in 5 women have experienced sexual violence in Australia. Furthermore, while this form of sexual predation is perpetrated predominantly against women, 1 in 3 cases of domestic violence occurs to men.
Sexual harassment and violence isn’t just a societal topic to be discussed in panels and editorials. It is a serious security issue.
Victims of gendered and sexual abuse can be friends or relatives. They are often customers or even clients. They are also your colleagues and staff members. Their welfare can affect your business productivity and security. Further, the reputation of your business or company can also depend on how you address these kinds of problems. This is especially true if women are victimised in the workplace.
Recent exposure of sexual predators within the workplace such as Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein and even Australia’s own Don Burke has revealed endemic workplace security and welfare. Unfortunately, these issues aren’t new; it is only due to the high profiles of these perpetrators that sexual harassment and sexual assault are being openly addressed in the public arena.
The exposure of these predators in high profile positions is a sign of the changing culture in social and corporate circles. As more women become empowered in the workforce through work mobility, higher education and increased social visibility, the discussion will only get louder.
It is important that businesses do not look away from the subject of sexual abuse and gender abuse in the workplace. Women and men should feel safe to come into work as much as they should be safe from harm within the home.
Sexual harassment should be thoroughly considered when implementing security policies. It shouldn’t just be an HR issue that is occasionally lumped in with bad workplace behaviour or bullying in the workplace. Sexual assault is assault and is a clear violation of any work contract but also a violation of personal and workplace security.
The only way to deal with sexual harassment is to scrutinise your company’s work culture. In doing so, there are three things to consider:
- Provide relevant and sensible training: This isn’t just the standard anti-sexual harassment workshop facilitated by HR departments. It is important to frame this subject as a skill to engaging effective workplace relations. Training can not only foster better social and work relations among staff but also build important skills for client interaction.
- Listen to and believe victims: The Harvey Weinstein scandal was an open secret in Hollywood. In fact, there had been numerous cases brought against the Hollywood producer as far back as the 1970’s and yet, we are only hearing about these now. The problem was that women neither felt safe enough to reveal their abuse nor were they believed when they did step forward.
Sometimes, victims were deliberately silenced, or even threatened to ensure they did not come forward to report abuse. Even if it comes at the expense of a great asset, such as a talented actor like Kevin Spacey, or a high-level manager, or a key stakeholder, no one should ever be above the law. Investigations should be made and followed through with tangible consequences. A victim should be made to feel safe enough to come forward and be provided with support throughout the process. This can also include support for them at home. Even if abuse happens at home, a company should make its best efforts to provide a duty of care and help when they can.
- Analyse your corporate culture: This is probably the hardest and most intangible exercise to undertake. Security officers or staff should always consider what a company’s corporate culture looks like when conducting risk analyses. It can be easy to dismiss overly macho or toxic masculinity as irrelevant to the day-to-day running of a business or even a security policy.
A company that does not respect or protect part of its clientele or workforce will always fail in its duties in the long term. Businesses that do not have a grasp on a positive corporate culture can fall victims to lawsuits, whistleblowing or staff attrition if not dealt with correctly. In the case of the Kevin Spacey revelations, famous director Ridley Scott made the decision to remove Kevin Spacey’s appearance from his latest film at the last minute, replacing his role with another actor and incurring numerous costs in reshoots to re-edit the film.
The moral choice to disassociate himself from Spacey has earned him the respect from the film industry as a whole for taking a stand against such behaviour.
Social campaigns that have revealed the ugly truth about domestic violence, including gendered and sexual assault has exposed numerous individuals in positions of power. From powerful Hollywood executives, actors, fashions photographers and politicians, vocal campaigns such as #metoo have revealed that this problem is only the tip of the iceberg. This kind of abuse is statistically suffered mostly by women and has been a problem in society for far too long. Fighting against it has been difficult, but things must and are changing.
When half of your workforce or clientele feels categorically unsafe at home or at work, especially when (mostly) men in positions of power find it easy to take advantage, we fail in maintaining any form of business security or integrity.
Sexual assault, harassment or abuse is not just an HR issue, nor is it a topic that is going away. It should be high on the list of a company’s priorities to ensure sexual harassment in the workplace is acted upon immediately and the workplace is safe for both men and women at all times.
If you wish to improve your organisations security culture as well as increase the well-being and safety of your employees, Agilient can provide risk assessment and risk management assistance in the Human Resources functional area. Please do not hesitate to contact Agilient for assistance.