Sexual discrimination in the workplace was prohibited by the passage of Title VII in 1964, after which Cornell University activists coined the term “sexual harassment” in 1975. Cornell’s former employee, Carmita Wood, filed a claim for unemployment benefits after resigning due to improper advances from her supervisor. Wood and other workers in the university’s Human Affairs Office, formed the “Working Women United” to show their discontent on how women are being treated in their workplaces.
The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in accordance with Title VII describes sexual harassment or assault as “…unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.”
Law divides sexual assaults into two; “quid pro quo” which involves offering favors in exchange for sex and “hostile environment” which includes instances when pervasive atmospheres are created to interfere with victims’ performance.
But even with the strict law against sexual harassment, sexual assault cases without proper punishment is still very prominent today. Looking at cases of #MeToo and #TimesUp movement, the law can be said to be ineffective ― it is loose in the real sense.
There have been instances of employees who reported sexual assault to their Human Resource (HR) department, only to be dismissed for unfounded reasons.
After a female employee at Vice revealed to the firm’s human resources department that she had been groped at the media company’s holiday party, the HR director reportedly told her to “laugh it off,” and gave similar advice to other staffers who disclosed they had been sexually harassed.
In a news published by Employee Benefit News (EBN) , Weinstein Company HR was alleged to have always forward all sexual harassment complaint about the co-founder, Harvey Weinstein, back to Weinstein himself.
In another case against Omni Corpus Christi Hotel, Texas, filed by Emery Lindsley, it was documented that the plaintiff indeed reported the sexual harassment case to the HR but was ignored.
In a New York’s Times post, Ms. Lindsley said “I went to H.R. and said, you need to do something, I was embarrassed and humiliated about how he had treated me in front of my team. But she ignored me. She didn’t even write it down. She didn’t seem to take it serious at all.”
The society and the law are wrong!
A Supreme Court ruling in 1998 in a case Burlington Industries v Kimberly Ellerth, states “an employer is responsible for the acts of its supervisors; and should be encouraged to prevent harassment and exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any sexually harassing behavior.” As reported by the TIMES, in the Supreme Court’s words, the employer may not be liable if it can make the case that it “exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any sexually harassing behavior” and that “the plaintiff employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer or to avoid harm otherwise.”
Literally, this means, the company is less concerned when sexual assault is committed in its organization. This is very wrong! And it needs to be addressed, it’s been far too long that the issue of sexual assault has been overlooked by the law, proper punishments aren’t dished out to offenders, this makes potential offenders bold to commit this abominable act.
The law has failed! Most women who have been sexually harassed aren’t protected by the law, and the society. Whenever there’s a case of harassment the society is always quick to judge the woman and believe the man, this is fundamentally wrong! For example, in a case Arabalo v City of Denver, a corrections officer complained that she was drugged and raped by two deputies only for her immediate supervisor to dissuade the claim as a “he said, she said” situation and should be kept under wraps. What is wrong with the world?
An online survey endorsed by the Crown Prosecution Service, conducted by Zainab Gulamali who contacted victims through Women’s Aid, Citizen’s Advice Bureau, Victim Support and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, it was discovered that even though in cases where victims get justice and their offenders are imposed with restraining orders, more than half have faced vexatious court proceedings taken out against them by those who have been convicted of abusing them even though they were subject to restraining orders.
“The report found that not all perpetrators of coercive behavior are subject to a restraining order and not all restraining orders clearly bar perpetrators from contacting their victims online,” the survey reported.
Proving a case of sexual assault in court has always been difficult. The court demands for witnesses and evidence, which in most cases is never available, seriously! how could there be an evidence or witness to a sexual assault, you do not expect women to always move around with a recorder, which would even be useless if you happen to have one on you because the average woman will be busy fending off her attacker not making recordings on a tape.
MAKING OUR WORLD A BETTER PLACE
The law against sexual assault needs to be reviewed! to better protect the victims, most victims in the world today are too scared to speak up because the law doesn’t do enough, and this is really painful! In order to encourage more women to come out and speak up, adequate provisions has to be made available by the law to protect them. Those convicted of sexual assault should be made to feel the full wrath of the law, enforcing stricter punishment to deal with perpetrators will dissuade others from this abominable act.
Also, the society needs to do better, not all women who claims to have been assaulted is lying, it’s wrong to always condemn the woman before the facts are laid out. The stigma attached to sexual assault victims needs to be stopped, for this world to be a better place to live in we all have a role to play. Sexual harassment laws and awareness should be taught in schools, churches, homes etc.
The blunt edge of the sexual assault allegations sword needs to be sharpened! And to make this a reality we all have a role to play. I believe with the proper laws and awareness in place, the rate at which women get harassed will be drastically reduced.
- Nikki Wolters is a passionate writer and blogger. She currently serves as a guest writer at a real estate company based in Seattle, WA. Nikki has started her career in writing about five years ago, and she has written over a hundred articles that span across various fields.