Dre Hill’s 2018 Winning Scholarship Essay

Sexual Harassment Prevention in the Workplace

The world, the human society, is constantly changing and progressing, usually for its own betterment. This includes the recent shift in the corporate and media world and the focus on prevention and reaction to sexual harassment. The definition of sexual assault, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary reads as follows “uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature especially by a person in authority toward a subordinate”. These various behaviors can include stalking, offensive gestures, touching/groping, and asking for sexual favors. Often these situations occur via the professional and educational pipelines. With more victims speak about their experiences and speaking out against their perpetrators, the depth and complexity of this issue into even more focus. The question then becomes how do we prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and other institutions and what is the response should harassment occur?

As it stands, whatever system is currently in place in relation to preventing and responding to sexual harassment is ineffective. With the recent emergence of empowered victims stepping forward and speaking out about their experience, this fact has become increasingly evident. A large portion of these particular incidents occur in a situation in which the victim is coerced or blackmailed by their assaulter. The victim may be trying to vie for more competitive pay, a promotion, or some other opportunity and may be met with the request of sexual favors in exchange for that promotion or foot in the door. Thanks to those speaking out we also know that this type of scenario happens all too often and will likely continue to happen as long as these perpetrators are free and uninhibited by the punishments for their actions. The system cannot merely punish individuals after the fact, it must deter the act of harassment or assault preventatively.

To better protect employees, patients, students and the like, the entirety of the current system in place must be revamped. Each company and institution should have a separate subset of their HR department. This subset needs to be filled with qualified individuals with the knowledge and capacity to break up the pattern of harassment and victim silence, individuals who cannot be coerced, bribed, or manipulated into being silent or turning a blind eye during the event of harassment or assault. This subset would strictly handle all allegations and investigations of assault or harassment within the institution, conducting thorough research, investigations, and interviews to ensure that the truth is discovered and that all responsible parties are held accountable for their actions, or lack thereof. Therefore, appropriate action will be taken as determined by institution policy whether that means immediate dismissal, fines, a lawsuit, jail time, etc. The hope is the severity and swiftness of the consequences of such actions will deter such activities in the first place. Furthermore, this subset will also be responsible for victim counseling, educating the victims on all the resources available to them following their ordeal. This way the victim can access the resources that will best help them return to as normal a life as possible, one not marred with silence, guilt, or fear.

The world, the human society, is constantly changing and progressing, usually for its own betterment. This means that our preventative measures and response to sexual harassment or assault should be too. The current system is flawed, ineffective in protecting people and often fails to provide the victims with the restitution and closure they seek. So we have to dig in, do the work, and build a better system to fix all of this.