There are a few sites posting the same blog from a science fiction and fantasy author, Elise Matthesen. It’s a self-authored account of how she handled sexual harassment happening to her at a convention in a professional environment — by another professional. If you’d like to read the account, John Scalzi, Seanan McGuire and Jim C. Hines all have it posted. The post details how she handled it, what the response of the appropriate people to handle the situation were and tips for what to do should this happen to someone reading the account.
From a personal point of view, this ticks me the hell off. Harassment is something I’ve handled since I was in junior high. I was in sixth grade with a B cup when no one else had boobs. I’ll never forget being on the school buss and the high school boys popping my bra straps because they thought it was okay and funny to treat me that way. It wasn’t, I spoke up and had to sit in the principal’s office and review the camera footage, reliving those moments all over again. It was embarrassing for a twelve year old to go through, and for the next few years those same boys harassed me to the point of violence.
There are other instances of harassment I can name. I understand that the way I look and my personality make me an easy target. It happens. It doesn’t make it okay. A beautiful woman, handsome man, someone with large breasts, a man with big muscles or some other attractive attribute (and we are all attractive in our unique way) are not grounds for treating someone with less respect than you give your car.
The act of sexual harassment leaves invisible marks on a person. I still shudder when I think of being approached at a work event and talked dirty to because someone happened to mention my pen name, and yet more assumptions about me were made. It’s like an oily mark on your soul that leaves finger prints and doesn’t go away for ages.
Reporting sexual harassment or standing up for yourself or others in the moment is important. In this day and age, most companies have HR departments that take it very seriously if the act happens while at work. Even if you are in another business establishment and something happens to you, you still have the option of going to that company’s HR or managers to report something happening to you. Like in the above mentioned post, events have staff that take the safety and comfort of their attendees very important.
The hardest thing to do is stand up to harassment in a public place, by a stranger. I’ve talked before about being a victim of domestic violence, and I can say that this is the hardest thing for me to do. Why? Because part of me goes back to that point where I was a victim and I fear for my person. At some point my backbone kicks in and I stand up for myself, but it’s a mental choice. A decision that standing up for my self worth and rights is more important than possible repercussions.
Elise Matthesen makes some great tips at the bottom of her post about what to do in the face of harassment and how to handle it.
A quick bullet point:
- Detail what happened as soon as you can. You’ll forget details, and later if you remember something else it’s easier to fit it into what you’ve already written down.
- Have a friend you can trust with you to talk things through.
- If there were people who saw it go down, get their contact information.
- Decide if you want to handle it. Sometimes you can’t because the person simply disappears, but in professional settings you have options. I would handle it, but I can respect others who would chose to ignore it ever happened.
- Determine the correct people to contact, HR or managers are typically the places to start.
- Safety is important. Notifying police or being aware of your surroundings or making sure to lock your door, all of these are more important and can help give you a sense of security.