HOUSTON, Texas. What does it take to be believed? One woman writing for the New York Times, recently wrote about the arduous process of fighting her sexual harasser—who happened to be a professor. What does it take to fight back? Lawyers. Meetings with former co-workers, meetings with former co-workers in which former co-workers fail to defend you. Your emails may be read. Your former love life may be put on the stand. Women who fight sexual harassment may not only need an employment law attorney, they may need a public relations team. For women who work for smaller companies, smaller industries, or those who don’t have the money to pay for a whole legal team, sexual assault and harassment can be damaging personally and for their career. It may be years before women choose to fight back. And when they do, they may not be believed or they may be asked why they didn’t speak up sooner.
In institutional settings, fighting sexual harassment can be particularly difficult. This is true for medical professionals, professors, graduate students, and government workers, and in fields where individuals in power can often chart the course of a subordinate’s career. For example, according to Teen Vogue, a congress member who wishes to report sexual harassment must undergo counseling and mediation, and then wait 30 days before filing a formal complaint or action. For a person who has suffered sexual assault or harassment, forced counseling and a forced cooling off period can be traumatizing. Imagine having to continue going to work with the person you have accused. Worse, individuals in congress have no means to make anonymous complaints. This can make it hard for victims to feel protected when reporting crimes. They may have to continue to work alongside a person they have reported against.
In fact, congress has come under fire for requiring victims to sign particularly harmful confidentiality agreements that would prevent them from discussing their harassment with even a therapist.
Silence is a form of secondary trauma. Sexual harassment and assault victims often not only face the violence of the initial act, but also suffer with carrying the emotional weight and secrecy of the violence committed against them. Confidentiality agreements, especially forced ones, only reinforce a culture of silence and re-traumatize victims.
We may think of people who work in congress as being high-powered, but many workers are unpaid interns who may worry that reporting a violation could potentially impact future career opportunities. If you work in an industry where competition is tight and communities are close-knit, it can be particularly challenging to fight violence.
What can you do if you’ve been a victim of sexual harassment in Houston, Texas? Consider speaking to an employment law attorney like Moore & Associates. Our professional legal team can review your concerns and help you understand your rights. We can help you fight back. Visit us at https://www.mooreandassociates.net/ today to learn more.