My View: Workplace has vital part in MeToo
Many people have felt the waves of our country changing. Whether it's gun law advocacy, the Trump Administration, or the wave of hate that has filled our homes and our streets, we are impacted people.
Within these movements for change, the #MeToo movement has stood out as a modern movement for women's equality and for people who cause harm with impunity.
I am a survivor of violence and abuse. The ways in which the world is changing are something I feel internally as I shift and relearn to be a person with a life free from harm. What is unsettling is that the #MeToo movement has mostly fallen upon just naming high-profile political figures and celebrity perpetrators. We can't stop there.
Equity and inclusion efforts are highly focused on creating safe spaces for people of color, women, the LGBTQ community and other people who are marginalized. This includes people with different abilities, veterans, and various age groups.
I believe this should also include efforts to support domestic violence survivors and the removal of their perpetrators from our workplaces. Domestic violence is about power and control. Allowing their harm to be unseen and unchecked only validates their misdirected pain that is projected as wounds on others.
Many of us work alongside perpetrators of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse and may not know it. How can public and private sector organizations protect their employees if they are not even considering the impact of their own staff?
I urge us to consider asking more questions and including survivors of violence in our equity work. How do we operationalize the need to include community harm (regardless of legal action) as a basis of a character standard for our colleagues? When perpetrators are unchecked, they don't heal the wounds they have that cause harm. Not intentionally screening for this hurts everyone.
Are we willing to have perpetrators, when unchecked, leading community-based organizations? Are we willing to have perpetrators of abuse giving speeches on justice while they go home and diminish someone's personhood with their hands? I am not.
Private and public-sector organizations have a clear invitation to be active agents for change in the #MeToo movement. As written in thousands of articles and academic research, domestic violence and sexual assault aren't confined to the privacy of one's home.
For us here in Portland, we deal with this in our own lives even if we don't recognize it.
It reaches the work environment through many avenues. Human resources departments are often asked to review leave material for domestic abuse survivors and provide documents related to civil or criminal court cases. Sometimes survivors are unable to express the truthful reason for their leave because legal documentation would alter their ability to make choices for their family and economic survival.
We know that many, if not most, people do not report domestic violence for fear of reprisal, social, and economic consequences. One way to protect ourselves and one another is to create a work environment where the evaluation of a person's character goes beyond just their professional qualifications.
Motivation can be found in the statistics. Ten percent of Multnomah County women reported that they were assaulted in the past year. This includes physical and sexual assault. These are statistics based on the rate of what's reported.
These numbers mean the majority of the workforce, I'm guessing closer to 90 percent of anyone who works within the greater Portland area, either work with directly impacted people or perpetrators. How can we use what we know from what's reported to create safer work environments?
Sometimes when you can't go home, work is all you have. If you can't be safe at work, where are you going to go?
Unless we are proactive, we will continue to cripple women, children, and men who are survivors of domestic and sexual assault. We need model policies created for public and private sector organizations through a community-based strategy.
The state, county, city and other local governments need to create hiring and recruitment practices to identify potential community harm. Private sector organizations need to address this, as their capacity to make change is much faster than the public sector.
If equity is about creating safe spaces from all forms of oppression, then any history of violence, not just a criminal record, needs to be a part of the hiring decision. I urge us
to bring these concerns forward and include the #MeToo movement in our equity work and beyond.