Archives for posts with tag: sexual harassment

JohnMayerDerpy

Like everyone else in Seattle, I’m still riding the Seahawks Super Bowl high. Our long-awaited football superiority was pretty much the only thing that anyone talked about for months prior to the game; green and blue were the only colors worn as far as the eye could see; Richard Sherman became a local hero much to the chagrin of the rest of the world; and I’m pretty sure I started murmuring “kakaw” and “beast mode” in my sleep.

So naturally, I was super hyped after the crushing total domination that the Hawks dealt the Broncos on February 2. I felt so much pride for our massively talented players and our state. It was a pretty amazing way for a team to win their first Bowl, even if I did feel kinda awful for Manning after all those sad puppydog looks he was giving…but hey, the dude’s already got one ring.

Everyone in the city was positively bouncing off the walls and going crazy – at least for Seattleites (see this hilarious twitterstorm of #HowSeattleRiots tweets making fun of the city’s polite raging). And like so many others, my friends and I rushed out into the streets, honking our horns, high-fiving strangers and chanting Sea! Hawks! between every sip of craft beer.

That night was a blast. Except for one thing.

At the only bar I went to, I was groped three separate times by three complete strangers.

The first (obviously wasted) guy put his arms around me, told me that I was beautiful, and then (as I attempted to push him off) proceeded to stick his hand into my jeans back pocket while simultaneously licking the inside of my ear. What. The. Funk.

Escaping from him, I eventually made my way outside the bar, where my friend and I chanted along with the crowd and sang We Are the Champions – right up until Creeper #2 walked up and grabbed me around the waist from behind. I turned around expecting to see one of my dude friends standing there and found instead a total stranger leering down at my chest.

NO – I told him.

Why? He asked, with an incredulous look of privilege and feigned innocence in his eyes.

Extremely aggravated but determined not to “make a scene,” I reentered the bar. A little while later, I saw two of my friends posing for a picture, and asked the cameraman (another unknown bar-goer) if I could jump in their picture. Sure honey, he cooed, as he reached his non-camera hand down and grabbed my ass and pinched hard.

Let’s just say, this all gets old fast, dudes. I never – or should I say we never, because I believe I’m speaking for a lot of my friends out there – asked you to touch us. We didn’t invite you to invade our space. We didn’t run around screaming “please grope me, I beg of you” or wear a sign saying “ATTN: I want you to innappropriately fondle my behind.”

John Mayor once sang a famous song that went a little like this:

Your body is a wonderland
Your body is a wonder (I’ll use my hands)
Your body is a wonderland

Well Johnny, that’s all good and well when it’s your consenting partner, spouse, friend with benefits, or one night stand. But groper dudes of the earth, please just listen to me. My body is actually NOT your wonderland. I am actually NOT here for your tactile pleasure. No, really!

I can’t think of a single woman who can honestly say that she enjoys random strangers touching her in this aggressive, sexual way.

It’s time to wake up and smell the mace people, because I think we are all goddamn sick of this bullshit.

 

*Disclaimer: I have nothing against John Mayer. But this picture is quite derptastic and relevant so I had to include it.

revengepornarticle

Originally posted on Everyday Feminism under the name “Taking a Stand against Revenge Porn and Internet Exploitation in the Digital Age”

Revenge porn. Never heard of it? You probably will soon.

This new Internet craze, specifically focused on women, occurs when a person shares a sexual or nude photo or video with a partner or hookup who later decides to make the private photo public.

Promises that the photo will be kept private often disintegrate with time, especially after a breakup or falling out. But the lasting negative effects on a victim of revenge porn– not to mention the extreme difficulties of removing photos once they have hit the net – make this phenomenon a horrifying prospect for anyone who has ever taken sexy pictures for a significant other.

And in most places, it’s perfectly legal.

You read that right. Revenge porn (also known as non-consensual pornography or cyber rape) is legal in every state except California and New Jersey.

University of Miami law professor Mary Anne Franks is trying to change this by helping states write laws against revenge porn.

To naysayers who prefer to victim blame, Franks compares sharing pornographic material to making a business transaction.

“If you give your credit card to a waiter, you aren’t giving him permission to buy a yacht,” says Franks.

Sending sexual or nude photos to another person does not give them the right to share what they’ve received on a public forum such as the Internet – especially within the context of trust and under an agreement that the photos will be kept private.

Now, profiteers have even discovered a way to make revenge porn profitable. Many popular revenge porn sites, such as MyEx.Com – a website that boasts the tagline “Get Revenge! Naked Pics of Your Ex” – offers victims with a “take-down” option.

Pay up, and the site will remove your photos.

And prices are steep.

MyEx.Com has an option to “Remove My Name” which takes you to the payment site “Reputation Guard” and demands $500 for the deletion of photos and personal information from MyEx.

Simply put, this is blackmail. MyEx.Com is working along with Reputation Guard to extort money from victims of internet exploitation – and no one is stopping them.

Moreover, paying $500 will only ensure that the photos are removed from the MyEx site. Everyone knows that once a picture is on the Internet, it is there to stay.

Reputation Guard has no authority to remove the exact same photos and personal information from the possibly hundreds of other low-life websites or personal blogs on which they have ended up.

Sometimes revenge porn doesn’t include personal information or naked photos – but it can still be damaging. I know – from personal experience.

A few summers ago, on the way home from a fantastic beach vacation with a group of close friends, I got a call that broke my heart.

It was my best friend calling to tell me that pictures of me had surfaced on AutoAdmit.com, a site for Internet trolls working in the law profession or attending law school with the laughable motto “The most prestigious law school discussion board in the world.”

The pictures were all taken directly from my Facebook albums. My name wasn’t included, and the photo locations ranged from formal events to cab rides to mini golf.

We quickly discovered that I wasn’t the only victim – my friend had a page of her own. This man, whoever he was, had pilfered about thirty photos of us from our Facebook profiles and written dehumanizing and scary descriptions of the sexual things he planned to do to us.

He even claimed to be close to having a threesome with us – an utterly inexplicable lie. About eighty of his site cronies then chimed in with comments so vile that I have spent years trying to forget them.

No nudity, no personal contact info, and no names were shared. And yet I felt utterly and completely violated. I wanted the photos down, and I wanted them down now.

However, AutoAdmit (like many revenge porn sites) is unmonitored and unstaffed. It is a forum for women-bashing and body-shaming by faceless trolls sitting behind computer screens.

So what can be done in these types of situations?

Unfortunately, there aren’t too many options – yet. But let’s look at the ones that do we have.

Contact the Photo Hosting Service

First, get your photos taken down if you can.

In my case, my friend and I realized that our photos were being hosted on imgur.com, so we wrote to the photo editor of imgur through their Removal Request option and demanded their deletion.

It worked. The photos were down within forty-eight hours.

Photo hosting websites like imgur are looking to avoid lawsuits. They are not as interested in protecting the creeps who post revenge pictures as they are of not being sued.

Be firm, be forceful, and threaten legal action. This is the easiest way to get your photos removed from a public image hosting site.

But what about sites like MyEx where the photos are hosted internally?

Although revenge porn itself is not yet illegal in most places, there are legal guidelines concerning ownership of photos.

A recent survey discloses that 80% of revenge porn victims took the pictures in question themselves – giving them the legal rights to those photos.

Under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998 (DCMA), victims can submit a DMCA take-down request to offending websites that are using their photos without consent.

Rights protection group DMCA Defender provides relatively low-cost services to victims who want help submitting a claim.

While these are viable options, they are only marginally successful at removing images, and do nothing to punish the criminals behind online sexual harassment. So what more can we do?

We need to go further. We need to change the law.

Making Revenge Porn Illegal

When Annmarie Chiarini, a Maryland college professor and victim of an immense revenge porn battle that nearly ended her career and brought her close to taking her own life, went to the police with evidence that her ex-boyfriend had posted and sold naked photos of her online, the police shrugged her away.

There was nothing they could do because no crime had been committed, they said.

Similarly, advocacy group End Revenge Porn creator Dr. Holly Jacobs suffered three-and-a-half years of unrelenting fallout when police failed to prosecute her ex-boyfriend for posting her personal data and photos online.

Now women like Jacobs and Chiarini are fighting back hard to make revenge porn unlawful. They are working around the clock to get bills passed in states nationwide that will make this type of online sexual harassment illegal and create real consequences for perpetrators.

The fact that revenge porn can have deadly consequences also lends great credibility to the idea of making it a crime. Releasing a victim’s image, hometown, full name, age, and occupation can lead to stalking and physical endangerment. It can also lead to deep emotional distress and even victim suicide.

Other groups leading the fight in the US include the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, Without My Consent, Army of She, Women Against Revenge Porn, and Bullyville. These sites provide fantastic resources that help victims join the fight to make revenge porn illegal.

Seek Mental and Emotional Support

The number of suicides linked to online sexual exploitation and revenge porn has skyrocketed in recent years.

Many arise from online harassment following a sexual assault, such as in the case of California teen Audrie Potts, who hung herself after photos of her rape were distributed online.

Others come from shame brought on by revenge porn.

Such is the case of Amanda Todd, who committed suicide after facing unending torment from school bullies over topless photos that she was pressured to send to an older man. She was in the seventh grade when she sent the photos and fifteen when she ended her life.

Revenge porn and Internet sexual harassment seek to demoralize, debase, and shame women on social, sexual, and professional levels. They are deeply painful and effective ways of making victims feel alienated, unloved, and even worthless.

Finding a psychologist or therapist who can help you navigate through the negativity is a key step to overcoming the pain induced by internet sexual harassment.

If you or someone you know begins to feel suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which provides a 24-hour hotline (1-800-273-TALK) and a therapy finder by geographical region. Using the therapy finder, you can search for licensed mental health professionals, support groups, government services, and more.

Reach out to your family and friends as well. They can provide you with a strong backbone of support in times of need.

If you don’t feel like you have anyone to turn to, a support/survivor group can also provide you with comfort and understanding. Check the websites of local sexual abuse agencies for more resources, or visit the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) site to search for other options.

Remember: This is Rape Culture, Not Normality

Our culture prefers to blame the victim in situations like these, saying “Why did she send this photo?” or “She got what was coming to her for being careless/slutty/sexual.”

As should be painfully obvious, and as Professor Franks demonstrates in a recent Cosmopolitan article, this is rape culture at work:

“When we say, ‘What was she doing giving out this picture?’ what we’re really saying is if you’re sexual with one person, society is entitled to treat you as sexual for all purposes,” Franks states.

“We’re telling women and girls that revenge porn is justified punishment for giving a sexy picture to a trusted partner, and that’s exactly the same thing as telling women and girls that rape is justified punishment for drinking or wearing a short skirt.”

So before you start apologizing about sending a sexy photo, think.

You are an adult. You are free to do what you want with your body (within legal boundaries). No one can tell you that you deserve to be publicly humiliated and have your trust violated because you are a sexual person. Remember that.

That said, there are undeniable risks involved with sending sexual photos to another person. Once a picture is given to someone else – whether your spouse, a friend, or a casual hookup – it is out of your immediate control.

Even if made illegal everywhere, the Internet is a big place. People will still find ways to get away with online sexual harassment and revenge porn.

But hopefully making it a crime will make it harder for them.

With prospective bills to make revenge porn and other forms of sexual Internet harassment illegal in New York and other places nationwide, the future looks a little bit brighter.

In the meantime, education about revenge porn is crucial.

***

The more people that know about this phenomenon and how to stop it, the harder it will be for creeps to get away with. And hopefully, it will become less common and accepted as people realize that it has dangerous results.

It’s just one more battle in the war against rape culture, but it’s one that we can all take part in by calling this exploitation out, educating people about why it’s not okay, and working towards making it illegal. Claim your rights.

Protect yourself. You are worth it.

AB13510

Article originally posted in Everyday Feminism, where I have recently become a contributing writer!Photo via Guetty Images

Before we can think about whether or not we’ve ever experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, we need to become familiar with different definitions of sexual harassment and the fact that it comes in different forms.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) describes sexual harassment as a form of gender discrimination that is in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

But what does that mean exactly?

Sexual harassment is intimidation of a sexual nature. It is any type of unwelcome sexual advance, from a crude joke to aggressive sexual bullying (physical, verbal, or both).

The Many Faces of Sexual Harassment

The two most commonly recognized types of sexual harassment are what we call quid pro quo and hostile work environment.

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment is, essentially, when someone at your job tells you that they will fire you or inflict other negative consequences on you (such as holding back salary increases, promotions, shift, or work assignments) if you will not have sex with them or perform a sexual favor for them. The Latin, of course, translates to: This for that.

Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment, on the other hand, is the creation of an antagonistic environment, expressed in sexual terms. This might include statements of a sexual nature expressed by coworkers and/or supervisors, comments made about your appearance, staring in a suggestive manner, inappropriate touching, or even the presentation of pornography in the workplace. It’s any form of sexually inappropriate behavior that makes being at work feel uncomfortable.

Studies suggest that anywhere between 40-70% of women and 10-20% of men have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, and reports of sexual harassment are on the rise.

Unsurprisingly, LGBTQ folk also experience very high levels of sexual harassment at their jobs.

How Sexual Harassment Disproportionately Affects Women

While this type of discrimination affects all genders, it is overwhelmingly inflicted upon females and is extremely effective at keeping women out of lucrative jobs.

One prime example is the hospitality industry.

Low-paid, high-stress maid service jobs are often done by females – whereas higher-paid, much less physically-taxing valet service jobs are dominated by men.

Although a woman may wish to transition from a cleaning job to a valet position in hopes of better pay and less back-breaking work, the creation of a hostile environment in which she is harassed and not welcomed will often keep her away.

This is not uncommon: research shows that female hotel workers experience more sexual harassment on average than women employed in other sectors – and that most of the harassment is performed by their own co-workers.

Understandably, most people are not comfortable working where they are not wanted.

Sexual harassment is most common in low-wage jobs, workplaces staffed primarily by young employees (such as restaurants), and vocations where the vast majority of the workforce (or management) is made up of men.

However, sexual harassment and discrimination on Wall Street and in other high-power industries is rampant as well.

In the 1990s, the famous Wall Street retail stock brokerage Smith Barney was sued for egregious sexual harassment and forced to pay a multi-million dollar settlement to a group of female employees.

Branch managers at the brokerage firm were found guilty of demanding that women take off their shirts in exchange for money while at work. One Smith Barney branch even had a “Boom-Boom Room” – a locked room in which brokers partied and played lewd jokes on female employees.

Both the Smith Barney case and the hotel maids’ plight illustrate how sexual harassment is often a way for men to gain power and control over their female coworkers.

By equating a woman’s worth with her looks, treating her as incapable of doing equal work as her male colleagues, or labeling her as a sex object, men show women that they are not welcome in traditionally male-dominated fields – be it valet parking or finance.

Taking Initial Action

Are women who complain about sexual harassment at risk of being shunned, demoted or fired from their jobs?

“Legally, companies are not allowed to take any adverse action against a person complaining of discrimination,” says Michelle Caiola, Senior Staff Attorney and Acting Litigation Director at the women’s legal defense and education fund Legal Momentum.

Adverse action might include transferring the person to a different department or switching them to a less desirable shift.

If employers are caught penalizing an employee who has complained of discrimination/harassment, they can be subject to a retaliation case (in which the employee who addressed the crime sues their employer for striking back).

According to Caiola, companies work hard to avoid retaliation cases because they are often easier for the victim to win in court.

Still, there are no legal boundaries in place preventing coworkers and/or superiors from ostracizing the victim who has placed a complaint.

The emotional toll of such shunning can easily create an unbearable work environment.

Retaliation from coworkers against the complainant can also be very frightening in hazardous jobs such as construction or firefighting – jobs in which the victim may be counting on her colleagues to protect or even save her life in a crisis.

Many people, especially low-income women working to support their families, are not able or willing to risk their safety or the practicality of keeping their jobs to address sexual harassment – so they continue to endure it.

Some Important Things to Know if You’ve Been Sexually Harassed at Work

1. What is My Company’s Sexual Harassment Policy?

Sexual harassment policies differ from company to company.

There are no legal guidelines in place for what they must include or what consequences must be enacted for breaking them.

Companies with better policies are transparent when it comes to how they investigate claims of harassment/discrimination; some even have zero tolerance policies.

Legally, there is another incentive for companies to create a sound harassment policy: an employer will be better able to fight a discrimination claim in court if they have adhered to their company’s own sexual harassment policy – although this is not a complete defense in all circumstances.

2. Make Sure You Document, Document, Document

Documentation is key in cases of sexual harassment in the workplace.

In the age of modern technology, where most people have e-mail, smart phones, cameras and social media, documenting harassment is much easier than it was in the non-digital age.

Take a picture, save an email or instant message conversation, record a vocal exchange or even take video evidence.

And most importantly, make sure everything is documented immediately, including dates, locations, people involved and any other relevant details.

3. What If I’m Not a Citizen?

Many undocumented female workers come to the US as dependents of their husbands and work in the “informal economy” – in jobs that are paid under the table like house cleaning or nannying services.

Unfortunately, these women do not have legal status or the ability to safely contact the authorities about work violations or harassment from their employers.

These facts make it very easy for employers to take advantage of undocumented workers due to their fear of deportation should they complain about their employers’ practices/labor conditions.

Under the law, undocumented immigrants should be protected against deportation in cases of combatting workplace harassment – just like they should be protected under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in cases of reporting domestic abuse.

But there are many loopholes in the US immigration policy, and the fear of being deported and thus ripped from their families remains a strong deterrent for undocumented women struggling with workplace abuse and harassment.

4. What Are Some Next Steps I Can Take?

The key is taking action collectively.

Talk to your colleagues and see if they are experiencing the same problems at your workplace. Organize the ones that are into a group – multiple voices are louder than just one.

Go to your Human Resources department to lodge the complaint and make sure to get written documentation of your visit.

If your company is unionized and you are a member, get in touch with the union to make a complaint. In many cases, they will be able to help you take action.

If not, talk to local union leaders about unionizing and see if others at your job are interested in organizing a union at your company.

Also consider visiting your local National Organization for Women (NOW) Chapter to seek aid and resources from professionals working on these issues.

5. What If I’ve Tried Everything and Still Haven’t Gotten Results?

The next step is to take the case to court.

For low-income women, the options here are fewer because lawsuits are expensive and time-consuming. In cases where the victim has a family to support but no access to reliable childcare, pursuing a court case may not be a possibility.

Instead, low-income harassment victims often reach out to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or their state’s equivalent agency (Fair Employment Practices Agencies, or FEPAs) to file a sexual harassment charge against their employer.

The EEOC then decides whether or not to investigate the claim.

6. What Can I Do To Prevent Sexual Harassment at Work?

Attend and pay attention to your company’s sexual harassment trainings. Education about how to recognize sexual discrimination is a vital step in preventing it.

If you aren’t comfortable with someone’s behavior towards you but don’t think it’s a big enough deal to speak out – think again. Harassers often start out small by testing the water with an inappropriate joke – but without reprimand, things can quickly escalate.

Even if you aren’t the subject of the unwanted attention, call out your coworkers if you hear them say inappropriate things or see them harass a colleague. Sometimes it just takes one outside person to make the harasser aware that what they are doing isn’t going unnoticed – and that they need to stop.

As the workforce continues to change and grow over time, and society becomes increasingly supportive of differences in gender, race, sexuality and lifestyle choice, there is hope for reducing workplace sexual harassment.

But as things stand today, the best defense a person has is to educate themselves about their options – and to get a good cell phone camera!

Everyday Feminism and Danica extend a special thanks to Terry O’Neill, President of the National Organization for Women (NOW), for her guidance and feedback in the development of this article. NOW is the largest organization of feminist activists in the United States and works to eliminate discrimination and harassment in the workplace, schools, the justice system and all other sectors of society.

Cat-Calling Sucks

This morning two men in a truck honked, stared and yelled things at me as I walked to work.

Saturday a male stranger in the elevator called me sweetheart and another man on the street asked if I would go home with him.

Last week one of my male colleagues yelled out “va-va-voom” when I walked into a board meeting.

Last month a parking attendant outside my office building told me that he wanted to marry me and that he would stalk me until I broke up with the fake boyfriend I told him I had in order to ward him off.

Last summer three men walked past me on the stairs of a bar. One turned around and grabbed my ass, squeezed hard and guffawed. All three proceeded to laugh uproariously and continued on their way. I was too stunned to say or do anything so I just stared as they left me there on the stairs. A few weeks later a strange man in a club came up behind me while I was dancing with a girlfriend and pulled my waist towards him, pushing his crotch into my behind. I turned and demanded an explanation. His answer: “You backed into me.” Bullshit. Straight out lie.

These aren’t the worst examples of street harassment, just a few that come to mind. I am cat-called almost every single day of my life, no matter what I’m wearing or who I am with. But mostly when I am alone, walking to or from work or home.

Worse: I’m not an anomaly. This happens to most girls. All. The. Time. Cat-calling is not a compliment – it’s degrading, humiliating and demoralizing. It limits our ability to walk down the street without fear – even in broad daylight while wearing professional attire.

The featured quote says it all: I may be walking through a public place, but my body is not public property. I am a individual person with rights to my own body, not a sexual toy/object inviting your comments, stare or touch. Please consider this and apply it to ALL people as you move through your day.

Here are some great resources for people who are looking to learn more about how to identify and combat this type of harassment:

HollaBack! You Have the Power to End Street Harassment
Stop Street Harassment
Meet Us On The Street*

*Anti-street harassment week was April 7-13, 2013. Visit this website for news about next year’s event and additional resources.