The topic of sexual assault is coming to light more so this past year it seems than ever. For a long time, there has been a silencing of victims along with a difficult process for anyone who wanted to come forward. Many factors contributed to this condition. To start, there is the historically futile legal process which is scary and often, unsuccessful for most. Additionally, there is the fear of retaliation and shame that--for a really long time--has been an accepted norm in our society as a response to sexual assault claims.
Yet, this last year sparked a possible changing of gears in terms of how we understand and talk about them. However, there are also many other cases that remind us progress has started but it hasn’t went very far. On October 6, 2018, Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in to the United States Supreme Court. After Christine Blasy Ford’s testimony on Kavanaugh’s unwanted sexual advances on her, it reminded us the words of a victim can mean nothing especially when addressing men in high places of power.
The 2018 EEOC report does offer some hope to a growing number of accountability and redress for sexual assault survivors. One year after the #MeToo movement begun, the U.S. saw an increase in victims making complaints in employment cases. The agency filed 66 harassment lawsuits in 2018, including 41 that contained allegations of sexual harassment. That reflects more than a 50 percent increase over FY 2017 in sexual harassment suits.
This is notable considering between 2000 and 2017, the number of sexual harassment charges filed with the EEOC were declining. Some try to explain this decline over the 17 year period as a result of employers doing a better job handling sexual harassment complaints. They claim this led to more cases settling without needing to be referred to the EEOC. Whether this data can be proven or not is unknown, but the unprecedented rise of claims this fiscal year is a better indicator of where we stand as a country now.
It highlights the many problems that are only starting to surface on a national scale. It sheds light on the work that needs to be done and maybe holds some promise that this can be a turn around. Regarding sexual harassment in the workplace, there is a lot to be done on the side of the employer before a case even heads to court. It is pertinent that employers are trained and well informed on the best approaches and responses.
The EEOC’s announcement also recommended its training program, Respectful Workplaces, which teaches skills for employees and supervisors to promote and contribute to respect in the workplace. The agency says more than 9,000 employees and supervisors in the private, public, and federal-sector workforces participated in Respectful Workplaces trainings during FY 2018, and an additional 13,000 employees participated in EEOC’s anti-harassment compliance trainings.
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If you would like to learn more about your rights or believe that you have been discriminated against please visit the Civil Rights Justice Center located at 2150 N. 107th Street in Seattle Washington or visit our website at civilrightsjusticecenter.com