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Lecture sheds light on sexual harassment prevention, response

By Saeb Rawashdeh - Nov 23,2019 - Last updated at Nov 23,2019

Suzanne Goldberg

AMMAN — The #MeToo Movement started 10 years ago and was directed against both racial discrimination and sexual violence, said an American scholar during a talk entitled “MeToo and the Global Change” held on Monday at Columbia Global Centres in Amman.

Many times, women are blamed for sexual violence and verbal abuses perpetrated by men, noted Suzanne Goldberg, who is a professor of Law at Columbia University in New York and a recognised expert on sexuality and gender law, having worked with universities, private employers and governments to address sexual harassment and misconduct.

“Two things have changed. The first thing is that the old order is questioned,” Goldberg said, noting that the world has reached the point where questions of public interest are asked publicly.

The second change that she pointed to is in social media: “It can connect people to demonstrate and organise politically, and enables people to get support.”

Although social media can be a significant space for backlash — as it can see hostility and violent threats — it is also a place of empowerment, and a platform for countering isolation, Goldberg stressed.

The scholar pointed to the isolation of women and men who are facing harassment and violence, noting that students and employees who experience sexual harassment may drop out of school or university, or take leave from a job where they are harassed, creating economic loss for the state. 

“Whether from the public or private sector, an NGO or a fancy corporation, employees who have faced workplace harassment tend to call in sick. This leads to teams that don’t work well, more difficult environments for supervisors to manage, drops in productivity and the departure of talented people,” said Goldberg.

Open dialogue about these incidents and anonymous reports are two ways of dealing with sexual misconduct, the scholar continued, adding that sexual assaults are some of least-reported crimes because victims feel shame, blaming themselves, not the attackers. Victims also think that they will not be taken seriously and instead face retaliation and embarrassment, she noted.

Individuals’ trust in institutions and annual meetings where stakeholders and decision-makers discuss cases of sexual harassment are other possible solutions, as well as holding managers accountable, as they often know what is going on within their organisations but “simply do not care”, she stressed. 

“Accountability should move from the top to the bottom of the organisation,” Goldberg said.

“At the same time, each of us can make a difference, maybe not for the whole community, but with one person, and if we start with one person, we can move towards transforming our societies into better places,” Goldberg concluded. 

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