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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Harassment

The most common piece of advice that people who are being harassed (sexually or otherwise) get is, essentially, some variation of "Get over it, you pathetic weakling."

The wording and emotional shading may change, but the message remains the same. You're too sensitive. It's your fault. She was asking for it.

Everyone's got their Achilles' Heel - and often more than one. Some well worn track past all your barriers of intellect and self-esteem that cuts straight to your heart. Sometimes you'd think of them as phobias, if they cause unreasoning fear. Some of them lock the spirit into a repeating emotional pattern from which it is hard to escape, reliving the patterns of former misery.

It might be spiders, clowns, mimes, confinement, pregnancy, sexual advances, the disapproval of a parent, certain kinds of insults, slurs or teasing. Everyone's got pushable buttons that generate emotional responses first, leaving intellect to falteringly chase the ambulance.

Repeated exposure often amounts to reinforcement, deepening the track. The wound doesn't heal and each time it hurts worse than the last. This also means that it can be very subtle. Individual incidents may not seem significant in and of themselves to others. Well, of course they don't. They're not your buttons and they're not happening to you. Turning to others has a pretty well-established history of not working well, and that makes things worse.

A woman in the workplace (let's call her Susan) becomes the focus of unwanted sexual slurs, advances, maybe even inappropriate touching. When Susan works up the courage to talk to her friends about it, the most likely piece of advice she is likely to get is some variation of "Get over it." - You shouldn't let that sort of thing bother you. Just ignore it. It's not as bad as you think it is. Run it off. Grow up!

Can we accept, for the moment, that that is not at all helpful? It's much the same sort of advice that people with clinical depression or clinical anxiety get.

If dealing with harassment was as simple as shrugging it off and ignoring it, we wouldn't have laws and regulations about it. It'd be a non-event. The fact is, that however minor or severe the incident is, it is something you don't have a natural defense against. Quite the opposite.

Harassment is a bit like an allergy. The slightest contact can set you off. You brush against a plant protruding from a fence onto the sidewalk, and within minutes you can be incapacitated. You shy away from situations where that might occur, walking suspiciously on the other side of the sidewalk. You avoid walking in parks. You avoid ever being alone with the boss, or that sleazy coworker. You avoid workplaces like the ones in which you have been harassed before.

You do the smart thing, which is to avoid contact with the thing that causes you harm.

Everyone else tells you to get over it. You're too weak, too sensitive, run it off.

As if.

When you are speaking to the victims of harassment, even if you don't understand, be more accepting - and mind your words. If all you can say is some variation of "Get over it", you're probably better keeping quiet.

4 comments:

  1. I was the first female tech at a company, and put up with a lot by giving as good as I got. That was until one guy stepped over the line until deliberately insulting, wherein I kicked him to the ground and made him crawl away while thundering at him.

    I have since learned that assault at the workplace is not a proper EEO response. :> But damn it was good, and sent a clear message.

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  2. Get over it: they told my mother that after dad died. The poor woman was never alone in all her life but now, at 71 and not fully physically capable, she must 'get over it'.

    'Get over it' is always the answer from people who don't know what they are talking about. At least such situations make clear who your real friends are - they don't use that phrase and stick by you.

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  3. "Get over it" and the other one: "just tp elsewhere or logout".... Yeah, right.

    First thing, I don't want to be forced to run away every time some griefing idiot have his retarded fun. This world is mine as is everybody else's and I don't want to run away. Beside, if we all start to move with each harassment, doesn't that promote griefing? Doesn't that encourage and motivate griefers?

    Second, do we really need to walk in second life always ready to hit the little x in upper right corner? I don't feel as desperado gunman always looking around, ready to pull the gun/kill my viewer on the first glimpse of danger.

    Third, you actually cannot escape. At the moment you are ready to tp elsewhere the harm has already been done. And don't tell me to get over it cause I am grown up and I kow to deal with it, but it is not pleasant thing and it has its consequences.

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  4. Margaret7:06 AM

    Hey there!

    I know this is an old post, but would you mind if I linked to it while discussing harrassment on my own blog?

    Thanks!

    Margaret

    ReplyDelete

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