My mom instilled in me a strong sense of ownership so I am unable to complain about a problem without offering solutions -- even if they are solutions that would work for me and might not work for others. I figure at the very least, this conversation should be happening no matter how uncomfortable or controversial it might be.
Here are some of the things I felt when I came forward with my own experiences being harassed within the Broadcast Centre in Toronto along with my ideas for actions HR or the Union or my bosses could have taken that would have made me feel safer. I should note that I was not a CMG member at the time I reported, so they were not approached or involved.
I felt…worried for my job because I was reporting on someone I worked with.
ACTIONABLE SOLUTIONS: Clear assurances that the boss above both of us (myself and the person who was doing the harassing) would be told of these issues - anonymously if that is how I felt comfortable. I would have felt more secure with that in mind.
I felt…desperation for the harassment to stop immediately
ACTIONABLE SOLUTIONS: You shouldn't have to wait days or weeks to get relief from the situation. From other women I have spoken to about this I heard that they were the ones (the harassed in other words) who were moved 'out of the situation' rather than the person they were reporting on. Think outside the box please. There are other solutions to this problem.
I felt…a lack of control
ACTIONABLE SOLUTIONS: I'd like a reported harassment to be like a transaction in some ways (I know, it's cold, but hear me out) - where notes are taken, and where both parties get copies of the notes as signed by each. Then we wouldn't run into what this former CBC employee is running into now: an incident with Jian she believed she had reported but with no file or records to be found to support her.
I felt…anxious about possible retribution
ACTIONABLE SOLUTIONS: I will only speak for myself in this case, but I found whenever I stood up to this one harasser about a specific thing that made me uncomfortable, he would switch gears and apply a different tack - like calling me by a weird nickname for a month instead. If the employer can't pull the aggressor out of the situation then someone needs to clearly explain to him/her that a file has been opened and he/she are being observed.
I felt...a quickness to Anger/Tears/Anxiety
ACTIONABLE SOLUTIONS: In this case I think a small group could be formed where employees can speak to others who are dealing with or have dealt with these types of issues. Like many other traumatic things that happen to us in our lives, we can feel very alone. I remember this from when I had my first miscarriage (another awkward subject). Every second women I divulged that to would answer with a similar story of loss, and it astounded me. We don't talk about it so we aren't able to comfort each other about it.
I felt…a sense of hopelessness
ACTIONABLE SOLUTIONS: I'd like to know that reporting this, tracking it, getting witnesses, whatever it is you ask us to do to prove that we are being harassed actually leads to something concrete. How about some anecdotes? How about some evidence? Yes, we hear Jian was removed from the CBC because someone in management was provided with evidence of his behaviour - but that is one example and it is pretty extreme. How about when someone is let go because of their harassing behaviour it is not swept under a rug. How about we declare that we as a community within the CBC have a zero-tolerance for harassment and THAT is why that person lost their job?
I felt…worried that I wouldn't be believed or taken seriously
ACTIONABLE SOLUTIONS: The person who hears the complaints has to be trained, and trained well, to take in this kind of information. The phrase "he's from a different generation" or "she's harmless" or "our hands are tied, he's a host!" are not acceptable answers to a reported harassment. We are not children and they are not Gods. We take it seriously, the employer needs to too. They need to take notes, be trained to offer help. Take us seriously immediately -- from the very first report.
I felt…guilty because this person is a friend
ACTIONABLE SOLUTIONS: Sometimes the person who is doing the harassing is a friend. Or sometimes you are not being harassed directly but are watching a friend do the harassing. So we won't speak up when we witness things because we don't want our friends to get in trouble and we don't feel empowered to speak up ourselves. So what then? Should we have politeness marshals for the floor? Like we have fire marshals? Perhaps the support group is a good solution for this as well - somewhere where you can bring your concerns to a group and talk about potential ways to handle it together.
I know there are going to be some people reading this who will rightfully ask about the rights of the accused. I don't see any of these actions as intruding on those rights, but I am open to discussion if you disagree.
If someone is wrongly accused (which is the worry I hear voiced most often) then telling the alleged harasser they are being observed is a chance to prove that the accusations are unsubstantiated. I believe that by telling someone that a file has been opened on them, this becomes a more transparent process - they are aware that something specific they are doing makes someone else feel uncomfortable and they are in control of stopping it. If I heard that pulling someone's hair made them feel uncomfortable (yes that happened to me) I would avoid even standing to close to them. I would go above and beyond so that they would never feel that way around me again. But that's just me maybe.
I also believe that by limiting the information about this issue to (1) the person who files the report, (2) the HR/Union Rep, (3) the accused and (4) the boss of both of those people we can avoid any worries about reputation loss for either party.
Angela Misri is a freelance writer and digital producer. She is the author of Jewel of the Thames and she can be reached at @karmicangel.
Photo: Flickr/Peter Rukavina
Thank you for reading this story…
More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.
rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.
So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.
And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.