Hosting its monthly support group for survivors, Sakhi’s direct services team tackled the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Sakhi invited guest speaker Susan McQuade, a Safety and Health Specialist with the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health.
She spoke to the gathering of 11 survivors, along with staff members and interns, about key details concerning sexual harassment.
“The basic message was that people need to understand that sexual harassment is illegal,” Susan said. “It’s very much like DV in that it’s important to make it clear that you don’t have to go it alone. There is help available.”
Survivors discussed their own personal experiences with sexual harassment and noted their previous lack of awareness concerning their rights on this issue when they first moved to the United States. They also drew parallels between the power and control dynamics between domestic violence and that of workplace sexual harassment.
A direct services staff member described the survivors’ initial reactions: “Some women, including Limited English Proficient (LEP) individuals, felt that no one would believe them and they didn’t know who to talk to.” She added, “There was concern that the perpetrator is often the one with authority, so who would believe the survivor if it became ‘he said/she said?’”
In response, Susan explained the importance of documentation, noting that a log could serve as evidentiary material in court.
Survivors were glad to know that laws exist to protect workers and that avenues of support are available.
The direct services staff member indicated the session would have impact beyond that day, noting, “Towards the end of the workshop, survivors felt they had gained more confidence, as they knew what constituted sexual harassment in the workplace and learned that there were laws in place to address the issues. Some spoke about sharing the information with colleagues and friends.”