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Harassment and why women are angry

Harassment and why women are angry

Lauren Ashburn, of the Daily Beast, reports on A Flood of Harassment Horror Stories After the Herman Cain Allegations:

The floodgates burst open.

Moments after publishing a story on how I’d been repeatedly sexually harassed at work—and didn’t do anything about it—an onslaught of emails about unwanted workplace advances began pouring into my inbox. These women, like me, made a decision not to report their abusers.

But they remain angry, even years later, their stories a hornet’s nest of head-shakingly disgusting behavior.

A woman who has since left the media business says: “Working as the 5:30 p.m. producer at an NBC affiliate, I was all of 22 years old. The senior staff was in an editorial meeting. There were no more chairs in the room when I arrived. I said: ‘I don’t have anywhere to sit; I’ll go get a chair.’ The editorial director, in front of everyone, turned to me and said, ‘As long as I have a face, you have a place to sit.’ ”

It soon became clear that Herman Cain’s accusers had struck a chord. A stay-at-home mom who once worked for a corporation told me her boss had said: “You are dressed like a monk today. Don’t come talk to me unless I want to sleep with you.” She described the boss inviting her “to various places around the world in the guise of business. The compliments were unreal and the pressure brutal.” And she spoke of an “eating disorder and crying every day … No one realizes how insidious harassment is and how much of it lives in the gray area of life.” She left the company and started her own business.


Said another: “When I went to HR to complain about harassment and a hostile work environment, the personnel head told me straight out that if I went ahead and filed a claim, I would find it impossible to ever get another job in the field in which I had worked in for 15 years. I also got the impression that it would take a murder for the company to take any disciplinary action against a senior executive. I was scared and felt defenseless, because I had no safety net. So, I continued to work for this psychopath.”

We keep quiet because we don’t want to wade into a “he said, she said” battle. Some women need the money too much to risk losing their jobs. And many know their male bosses simply won’t believe them.

Have you experienced harassment? Did you report it? Why or why not? What happened?


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Ann Fontaine

From someone who took me up on the offer:

I don’t know if it is still true, but certainly in the early days ordained women and seminarians were harassed regularly. It was part of the territory. A survey ten years after we ordained women revealed that just about every clergywoman reported being harassed during that first decade. Most of us did not speak up despite having been harassed by field ed and CPE supervisors, faculty and colleagues — stuff that today would result in a sexual misconduct charge. Back then, misconduct procedures weren’t in place and we knew that reporting it would just kick back on us so most of us just lived with it. I had a CPE supervisor who wanted me to sit on his lap for our supervisory sessions because he said I had “father issues” I needed to work on. One day he pinched my behind saying I had sent him “vibes” (my back was to him so don’t think so!). He used to have swimming parties where he would swim over under the water and pull off the women’s bathing suits announcing a nude pool party. The results of my resistance to his advances was a CPE report that said I had psychological problems and was unfit for ordination. Fortunately, my seminary found a way to “lose” it before it got to the diocese and thus saved me from the almost inevitable result of getting thrown out of the ordination process. And that’s just one story.

So before we get too focused on all those companies “out there” who aren’t protecting their employees, let’s look at ourselves. I suspect there are still clergywomen and lay staff members who are harassed….to say nothing of our tendency to have a single woman or two working in a largely empty church building all week. Getting a vestry to install a security system that enables a parish administrator to see who is there before they are allowed in the building is often a challenge — they don’t want to pay the cost. But that’s another matter…

Ann Fontaine

Paige – if anyone wants to send a comment about this without her name – I will post the notes anonymously.


Paige is right: A lot of us are not going to give the details of what happened to us. I can tell you that I’ve been sexually harassed in every profession in which I’ve worked, in every state in which I lived, in every country in which I served. I am a woman – therefore, apparently, I am a target.

And just to be crystal clear: The harassment did not always come from men. Sometimes, it came from women, who felt they could make comments to and about me based on my work.

Did I report each instance? No. Did I ever report harassment? Yes. I reported the worst one – and the harasser lost his job (he was reassigned to another department, a huge demotion). Many times, I confronted the harasser (including colleagues) and asked them what he/she thought he/she was doing. I often invoked their mothers, as in: Did you mother raise you to make those comments? I once even called out a prominent broadcaster for making stupid, harassing comments about me in front of 500 people (again, I invoked his mother).

But … the vast majority of the time, I did not make a report OR lash back. All I felt I could do was to warn other women about those men.

In the one case where I DID report the harassment (which was quite vile), I am glad to report that my MALE boss took action immediately, took it up the chain of command (as it were) and made sure action was taken – within 24 hours. My word was not doubted. And for that, I am grateful.

Sexual harassment, common as dirt (as Paige says), is a violation of Imago Dei, and we who proclaim to follow the Risen Lord need to think hard and fast about what we hear, what we witness, what we experience. The harassment has no part or parcel in God’s Kingdom.

Lauren Stanley

Paige Baker

This is one of those times Episcopal Cafe’s requirement that posters use their real names is going to limit your response rate. Women are silent about this issue for a reason.

All you have to do is read the comments on the original article to see what that reason is. I give Lauren Ashburn a lot of credit for speaking up–even though it took her years to do it.

Sexual harassment is about as common as dirt. Are we EVER going to get wise and start believing the victims of it and holding the perpetrators accountable? From my vantage point, the answer seems to be “Only when hell freezes over.”

Apps 55753818692 1675970731 F785b701a6d1b8c33f0408

Re to Episcopalbrother: It’s also difficult in that situation because it implies that the person being accused is gay. If that person is closeted the situation will end up as one in which nobody in authority wants to do anything for fear of “outing” the accused. I don’t speak from experience but having been in what could have possibly become that situation, I’ve been through the different possibilities in my mind.

-Cullin R. Schooley

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