Victims And Their Predators

Yes I suppose I’m upset, but more accurately, I’m disappointed; again.

I’m sad too, because once more, some good people have every reason to become cold and hard. Most are women – but there are men too; the victims of abuse. I ask you read on.

Why oh why I ask myself again and again are some people so intent on ruining the self-esteem, confidence and self-perception of others? Why is it that small people determinedly go out of their way to elevate themselves in sick, disturbing and twisted ways by intentionally diminishing others? What makes some people pour their energy into financially, emotionally, sexually and physically hurting and exploiting others?

Her name could be Sandra, Delores, Kelly, Cindy, Fatima, Tatiana or any other. She could be living in poverty, entrenched in the middle class or among the well-to-do. She just might have a degree or her Masters, dropped out before getting her high school diploma or be back in an adult education classroom. Her height, weight, eye or hair colour don’t define her, nor the country of her birth, the family she calls her own. She is at the same time anyone and everyone; your next door neighbour, the person you share the bus with, the driver in the next lane, the co-worker you admire for her good work habits. She could be your daughter; and you could be entirely unaware. And not be excluded, his name could be Dan, Keith, Jordan, etc. with the same realities as those above.

I’ll tell you this: he or she didn’t deserve what’s happened. She didn’t ask for it, he didn’t seek it out, neither one is in the least deserving of being on the receiving end of an abusive relationship. Let’s make it personal. YOU; yes you, you are blameless. You deserve better; you’re worthy and your not at fault. What you looked for, what you thought you’d found, wasn’t the abusive, manipulative relationship you ended up in. Those emotional beatings you’ve been on the receiving end of are just as real, just as devastating as a physical assault.

So what’s prompted this? Well, as you’d have guessed, once again, I’ve encountered victims of abuse; suffering at the hands of their past and current partners. What do these predatory men who’ve inflicted this abuse on these people have in common? Here’s their description:

  •  They are polite, well-spoken, charming and well-mannered
  •  They introduced themselves as caring and loving
  •  They discouraged contact with the victims friends
  •  They separated the victim from receiving help/support
  •  They went too far, apologized, said it would never happen again
  •  They bought gifts, they came smartly dressed
  •  They keep the victim guessing, on their guard and nervous
  •  They set impossible standards, demean and shame

Recognize anyone you know? These are the fellows who can charm parents of the victim into actually taking their side, who act and sound remorseful when it suits their needs and punish, pummel and humiliate when they are in the mood for, ‘fun’. These abusers dash hopes routinely, snoop through purses, get their mutual friends convinced they are the, ‘good’ one. These are the ones that turn kids against the victim; making it out that the victim is to blame for the fights, the arguments, the separations, the divorces. They are often extremely intelligent, convincing, likable and their greatest skill is manipulation. You might even like them very much yourself and come to doubt the truth of the victim’s claims.

I’m working closely with two victims of abuse at the moment. We’re looking to move forward with interviews that will lead to employment offers. I’ve only a small glimpse of the abuse suffered and endured. I’m hurting for them – and I’m not being trite – I’m being serious. But my hurt is absolutely nothing in comparison to theirs and please don’t think I’m suggesting it is.

What I see is two beautiful people both inside and out. They’ve got a lot to offer potential employers. They are bright, intelligent, well-spoken, educated, have superior interpersonal skills and… they are fragile, damaged, but not for a moment are they anything less than amazing and deserving.

What they want; what they deserve is decent jobs and stable, caring, meaningful relationships in true reciprocating partnerships. What annoys me and saddens me is when good people – strike that – beautiful people become jaded and hardened towards the world; when they distrust (with reason) others and miss the very healthy and secure, loving relationships they so crave. Those abusive, small-minded, evil abusers at that point have won.

If you know an abusive individual, stop pretending they aren’t doing any harm. Distance yourself from them and call them out. Abusers don’t like being in the light. If you know a victim, offer support, believe them and stand with them. Be a good ambassador for humankind. At this point, more abusers are male, more victims female. If you’re a male, you’ve got an onus to be one of the good guys; to keep alive the slim glimmer of hope for some woman that good men, while hard to find, are still out there. This is especially true if you’re in a position of authority and work with vulnerable populations. It falls to all of us however to be decent.

If you’re moved by this, impacted by this, add your voice. A like, a thumbs up, a comment. Let us stand together.

Guys: Hands And Eyes Off The Ladies

I’m not the first guy to pen an article on watching yourself around females in the workplace, and unfortunately I won’t be the last either. I think it important however to continue to be counted among those that think visually undressing your co-workers and flirting with the opposite sex is in poor taste in the workplace and for it to come from a male perspective as well.

Thinking of your own workplace, ever had a woman walk by and then saw some guys turn and crane their necks for a long look at her backside? Anything wrong with that? What about the wink between males and shaking one of your hands like she’s soooo hot? She doesn’t know you’re giving her all that attention so what’s the harm? Plenty.

Come on guys. Surely in 2015 you’d think we’d be past all the flirting, sexual innuendos, hugs as excuses to feel their bodies next to yours and brushing up against co-workers and making it look like accidental contact. Come on. Most of us are well past these juvenile high school antics but not all of us – and that’s a problem. And don’t give me any of that, “well her skirts so short she’s just asking for it”, stuff either. You should know better.

Okay let’s play out one of these little fantasies. Where do you think things are really going to go anyhow? Do you honestly think you’re going to have a torrid love affair in the janitor closet, maybe pat her bum while she’s at the photocopiers without any reprisal, or bare it all for your pleasure after hours on your desktop? Really? Not happening. We can do better guys. Give them respect.

Most workplaces have codes of conduct in place to protect all workers; male and female from unwanted attention in the workplace. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s the boardroom, the office, the file room or the factory floor, you could find yourself out of work and fired for misconduct if you engage in inappropriate behaviour. As I write this there is a news story in Toronto with the Canadian Broadcasting Company and one of its ex-employees who was fired for his sexual advances and unwanted physical attention. That case is underway and is going to take a long time to wind its way through the system, but a reputation is lost, a company out a good employee, and a $50 million lawsuit launched by the disgruntled and fired employee for defamation of character. What a mess.

Females don’t dress in the workplace to excite and tease. There are rules for how to dress and what is acceptable and what is not. Any woman, (or man for that matter) who is exposing more skin than appropriate would be reminded of the policy and immediately asked to correct things. What a shame if you personally lost your job on the spot if it came to that, and you had to join the ranks of the unemployed for what amounted to an inappropriate comment, sexual advance or something similar. Not only would you be out of work but instead of kissing that woman, kiss your job, income and your references goodbye. Is it worth it? No!

Rules are put in the workplace to protect everyone. Everybody should feel the workplace is a safe place to be, and workers should respect each other in the same way they themselves would like to be thought of and respected. The days of the ‘old boys’ club where guys on a factory floor would make openly sexual jokes and use crude and vulgar language around their female co-workers are few and far between and hopefully almost extinct. Imagine the stress those woman were or are under having to appear ‘like one of the guys’ and take it in order to fit in, but when alone feel dirty, ill-used and ashamed.

My guess is that in some places you can have all the policies you want but there are still some men who see women as sexual objects to be snickered about and talked about. It’s wrong guys. Do yourselves a favour and be one of the first to tell your co-workers that you yourself don’t appreciate it. Stand up not only for that woman who walks by, but also for the culture and atmosphere you’re trying to create in your own workplace of respect for each other as people.

Social media including Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. are all in the news from time-to-time for all the wrong reasons; somebody pressures someone else for some nude photos and then they get shared and then someone’s reputation is soiled and sometimes leads to suicide, ridicule, shame and humiliation. See something you know is wrong? Don’t share it yourself and ask the person to take it down, remove it, stop the sharing and tell them why its wrong.

People have enough to worry about these days just learning their jobs, striving to do them well and fitting in without the added stress of prying eyes to worry about. So no more looks down necklines, mirrors under doors, offering women your lap instead of your empty chair. We are better than this men.

I’d like to ask you to pass this on, to share it with others. If it landed anonymously on your desk, you might ask yourself why too. Respect the women you work with for the women they are and what they contribute to the workplace. We’ll all be better off for it.

Sexually Exploited At Work?

Talking about being sexually exploited work is something that might trigger past memories for some readers. Might even be just what you need if you’re in this situation now.

I wonder first if we could agree on a basic premise that people, (that means you) are always much more intrinsically valuable than the work they perform. Just about all jobs can be performed by any number of people. While I might for example not be cut out to be a Lineman for the local hydro company, there are many others who would be more than qualified to take the place of a current employee should that person leave their job. Even the head of a country can and is replaced every so many years.

There are some people in jobs that we think no one else could do – people who invent things perhaps. But wouldn’t someone else eventually invent the great things they did eventually? Would we really be still in the dark if you-know-who didn’t invent the light bulb?

Okay so people are more valuable than the work they perform. As I write that statement I am mindful of a large number of people who will agree with this statement as long as I’m referring to other people, because they themselves have such a poor and low self-image. But we’ve got to stick with the word, “people” meaning everyone, and that includes you.

So you’ve got this job and you’re being or have been sexually exploited on the job. Maybe it’s a fellow employee or even your boss. It could be anything you don’t want, like what they deem a playful pat on the behind or squeezing up against you in a tight space when there’s a lot of room behind them. It could also be much more than that, having your pay withheld until you perform some sexual favour for them, or being coerced into doing something for a client in order to keep the boss happy.

It’s wrong and it’s illegal. If like some others, you know its wrong but feel you have no choice because you need the money from your job to pay rent and eat, you’re caught in a situation called a moral and ethical dilemma. More than that though, you’re at a high risk of things getting much more dangerous if you don’t take immediate action.

There are several things you should do. First and foremost tell the person clearly that whatever they are doing is not welcomed, and make it equally clear the behaviour is to stop immediately. If it’s someone other than your boss, don’t threaten to tell the boss, go and actually tell the boss. Lodging a complaint against someone who persists in sexually harassing you is not only going to hopefully get them to stop it with you, but maybe get them to stop repeating this with others now or in the future. In a union? Talk to a Steward.

Another thing that is a good idea is to limit your own exposure to the person as much as you can, especially avoiding situations where you may be alone with that person. Staying out of the stockroom when the other person is there, leaving the lunchroom when only that person and you would be left behind, etc. Unfortunate as it is, you may find that adjusting your behaviour on the job when that other person should be having to change their behaviour is what ultimately makes you feel safer and keeps you out of harms way.

There is no excuse for someone to sexually exploit another person. The victim in this case is certainly not encouraging or responsible in any way for egging on or encouraging the behaviour. No you’re not, “asking for it” as some perpetrators say to defend their actions.

Filing a complaint with the police is also something you should do. I guess it depends on if you’ve been initially successful in halting the unwanted touching immediately just by telling the person to stop, and how small or great you feel the intrusion to be. Squeezing a rear end, a breast, a crotch? Definitely not accidental. Backing up while carrying a box and touching their rear to yours because they were unaware you were there is highly more believable as accidental.

Quit the job and do it immediately if you feel physically at risk just by going in to work and the employer is doing nothing to curtail someone else’s behaviour. If it’s your boss and there’s no one else higher to appeal to, get out. It’s back to the original premise; you’re more important and valuable than any job.

Of course having another job to go to is preferable over quitting and being unemployed. If you are able, you might be in a position to job search while still working, and finding another job to replace the one you’ve got now, move on. This protects your income but removes the danger.

There are social service groups in your area that deal with victims of sexual assault. It’s not your fault. Contacting them for help and support is anonymous, confidential and will help. Know your rights, and know that no clothing choice you make, the way you style your hair, or the way you walk gives anyone the right to touch your body in ways you don’t want.

Protect yourself; no job is worth more than you. Please share this.