The very positive outcome of the current sexual harassment furore regarding Harvey Weinstein and the film industry, is that the door is now wide open for women or men to take action when subjected to this. The natural reaction, especially in the popular climate of ‘name and shame’, of spreading the word loud and clear, is appropriate when the perpetrator is either a celebrity or someone in a high authority position such as a politician. It is understandable that an employee or struggling actress or singer would fear that naming and shaming someone may destroy their chances of a successful career before it’s even started. The counter argument is that our ambition must take second place to self-respect and indeed this in principle, is correct.
I want to suggest however, that perhaps ALL young people, at an appropriate stage of their education, should be coached on the subject of how to deal with inappropriate behaviour such as sexual harassment or bullying. I feel that young people could be armed with the confidence and courage (achieved through regular tuition at schools and colleges), to reject any inappropriate behaviour in a clear and powerful way. Students must be forewarned that requests or instructions that involve meeting the person in a private environment such as a hotel room or their home must be tactfully but emphatically be refused. As part of a nationwide programme aimed at empowering all employees in any profession, they must also be taught to reject potential abusers using specific and clear wording and warning them that if abusive or sexual behaviour continues it will immediately be reported to higher authorities. This would arm young people in secondary schools and all places of further education with the confidence to react in the correct way. If unwanted suggestions or behaviour continues, then these threats must be carried out with total confidence that those involved will be listened to and action will be taken.
Now that this issue has such a high profile and its existence has exposed a large number of perpetrators, victims can now be assured that their complaints will not be ignored. This is a chance to ensure that the problem not only shrinks, but that youngsters are armed with the strength and knowledge to stop it in its tracks.
All this may seem like stating the obvious, but if young people are actually trained in these matters long before they potentially occur and more importantly instilled with the total confidence that they will not be putting their career in jeopardy then hopefully sexual harassment in work situations and indeed in life, will be greatly reduced if not eradicated.