"Don't report sexual harassment (in most cases)" is, from where I sit, one of Penelope Trunk's most controversial posts about success at work. Her basic position is not, as it appears, to be a victim but rather to find the most expedient way to save oneself - because the odds are stacked in favor of the abuser. She writes:
"Sexual harassment in American work life is pervasive — as much as 80 percent in some sectors. But most women don’t stand a chance of winning a lawsuit. So having a plan to deal with the problem is a good idea for all women."
In fact, men and women alike can be victims of sexual harassment at work. Sadistic people populate organizations just as they do the schools, the clergy, the home, and every other environment with a power differential. According to the child abuse advocacy organization Darkness to Light, "About one in seven girls and one in 25 boys is sexually abused before they turn 18." (And we frequently hear that "sexual assaults are badly underreported and poorly counted.")
The extent of sexual assault in all sectors of society, its institutional sweeping under the rug, and the shame that victims feel about it is a problem. Post-traumatic stress keeps victims from ever feeling physically or emotionally safe - forget innovating, they're just trying to get by. The organization's legal and reputational issues and fears keep it wedded to a model where closing ranks becomes the easy solution, rather than working through problems transparently and moving on. Not to mention that abusive executives get away with hurting their employees over and over again, individually and by extension.
It's time to pull the curtain back from sexual abuse at work, support current or former victims in a very vocal way, and get the perpetrators out of the system.
Making it safe is not just the right thing to do, it's essential if we are to move forward and be fully productive.
* All opinions my own.