By Kathy Marshack, Ph.D
How do you cope with unwanted male sexual advances in the workplace? Since the #MeToo Movement gained momentum, this topic has surfaced more and more. Below are some of the answers I’ve heard to this question:
1. “It’s just part and parcel of what I have to deal with. I shrug it off.”
2. “I’ve never told anyone. I would lose my job.”
3. “I’ve been told to let it go. No one will believe me.”
4. “It’s never happened to me.”
5. “Why would any woman put up with that? I wouldn’t.”
6. “I wish I had been brave enough to speak up long ago.”
7. “Irrational fear kept me quiet.”
8. “I spoke up and got fired. He got promoted.”
9. “That doesn’t still go on does it?”
The latest Jim Jacks revelation got me to thinking about why this problem is surfacing now? What’s different in our culture that encourages the painful, horrible truth to surface — that women and girls have been sexually harassed and assaulted for centuries — and it continues to this day.
Jim Jacks is a former Washington State legislator who resigned when it was learned back in 2011 that he had frightened a young female staffer with unwanted sexual advances. It was all kept hush-hush by the state Democratic leadership, supposedly because the young woman wanted to remain anonymous. Jacks was allowed to resign, slip away quietly, and resurrect his life as an employee at Portland State University. I first reported on Jacks in the US~Observer in early November 2017.
Jacks’ story was not quiet for long. Another of his victims surfaced on December 8, 2017, as reported in the New York Times, For Female Lobbyists, Harassment Often Accompanies Access, by Trip Gabriel and Julie Bosmandec. According to the authors:
“For many female lobbyists on the receiving end of inappropriate comments and advances, reporting the offenses has rarely been a consideration. Nicole Grant, a lobbyist for an electricians’ union in Washington State from 2009 to 2015, recalled leaving a meeting with a group of lawmakers and lobbyists at the State Capitol. She recalled that as she walked out of the room, Representative Jim Jacks wrapped his arm around her lower back. Then his hand reached for her rear end and gave it a squeeze. . .Shocked and distraught, Ms. Grant fled outside, but didn’t dare report the incident.”
Frankly, I just don’t believe those women who tell me “It has never happened to me.” I suspect they are in denial or are fearful of opening up — or worse they accept that this is just the life of being a woman. There isn’t a twelve year old girl alive who hasn’t learned how to handle grown men who make sexual comments, or reached out and touched her inappropriately. As a watchful mother myself, I kept a careful eye on my daughters. I didn’t just protect them from predators, I taught them how to handle themselves, too.
There are good men. Good fathers. Good husbands. Good boyfriends. These Good Guys do have respect for their mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, girlfriends and female coworkers. But can you Good Guys understand that as long as you keep quiet about the harassers, you leave your women to protect themselves?
Covering for men like Jim Jacks leaves a woman all alone to fend for herself. Allowing men like Jacks to apologize or just move on does not help. The woman is left traumatized. As a psychologist, I know only too well how long it takes a woman to recuperate from sexual harassment (and abuse) — years, if ever.
The #MeToo Movement is going strong and the US~Observer wants to know your story. Whether you have been victimized by Jim Jacks or any other unethical, corrupt politician or strongman, let me know. And, if they haven’t been brought to justice, let the US~Observer champion your cause.