Dec 06

HARASSMENT HARROWS

What has spurred on the epidemic of harassment indictments and why now? Obviously sexual harassment has been a chronic and intractable problem in the workplace for many years, but either people turned a blind eye to it and/or fear of consequences prevented others from confronting the issues. Certainly the problems are more common with people in positions of power and authority. They sometimes believe that the rules are different for them or their word has greater credibility than others. They may abuse their power and have poor boundaries. They don’t think about the consequences of their actions and probably have gotten away with bad behaviors in the past. Their position, wealth, status, and power contribute to a sense of entitlement, self-importance and belief that they deserve special treatment.

Many individuals who violate others’ boundaries either don’t care about the impact on others, assume they can get away with it, or are unaware of verbal/nonverbal cues. In fact,some have never faced consequences to their actions and are used to others bailing them out and defending them. In some cases, they live in their own grandiose world and assume others are here to serve them. They can justify and rationalize their actions by reminding themselves/others of “who they are,” and what they can do with their money and power. This may include politicians, celebrities, professional athletes, CEOs, or anyone who can use their position to manipulate or abuse. Of course, there are also many highly successful individuals who have honor, integrity, humility, and compassion for people. What makes the harassers different? Why do some use their status in life to abuse while others use it for good?

In some cases personality disorders, and in most cases, personality characteristics contribute to their actions and decision-making. Often they lack emotional maturity, empathy, and awareness. They alienate themselves from others, lack accountability, and have lost their moral compass. The path they’ve chosen often is one of self-indulgence. Sometimes they lead two different lives and bounce from the “good” to the “bad.” Often, their groupies will reinforce their immoral behaviors only so they can stay connected to the gravy train.

While we have seen both good and bad changes in our world lately, our efforts to treat each other with respect and not abuse the boundaries of others has come to the forefront which is very positive. The fact that people feel more comfortable to talk openly about abuse and harassment is encouraging. We have less shame, guilt, and embarrassment which enables us to confront conflicts directly. Similarly, people acknowledge and address mental illness more readily which has reduced the stigma. Our mental health matters and impacts both our physical and relational well-being. When we face our problems directly, we increase the chances of resolution and closure which creates a healthier life.

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    • Katie Hall on December 6, 2017 at 2:32 pm
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    Here here to everything you have said.

    This was a tough read as I’d like to share openly my story.

    13 years ago, I was admitted to AnE with a paracetamol overdose. I had battled with poor mental health for a number of years prior to this overdose.

    On that occasion, I was sexually assaulted by the doctor when he entered the room by himself.

    When I disclosed this to the psychiatrist who assessed me, I was faced with anger by the AnE nurse. I was told by a psychiatric nurse that I was confused and that I didn’t know what I was saying. I was then put under pressure to sign a retraction that wasn’t even discussed with me.

    3 years after, when I felt well enough to face it, I took it to the General Medical Council who regulate the fitness to practice of doctors.

    Unfortunately, my case did not hit their criteria for investigation and the case was dropped.

    At the beginning of this year, I took it to the police. The doctor was not charged.

    I requested the investigation notes from the GMC so that I could read the statements of those who were there on that occasion (doctor, nurse and psychiatric nurse) and it was nothing less then a traumatic read.

    My mental health was used to cover and protect the doctor.

    The whole system, the lack of procedure and the GMC investigation was and is a disgrace.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story Katie. Sounds like the system is broken and hopefully changes are being made today to prevent something like what you experienced from happening again. Of course that doesn’t take away your pain and I hope you have been able to successfully work through it. I’ve heard many similar stories in my practice over the years. Be well.

    • Maria on December 11, 2017 at 1:14 pm
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    Harassment takes a village. You have the victim, the perpetrator (usually a repeat offender) and everyone watching from the sidelines. And there are a number of people who are VERY aware and choose to ignore what’s happening.

    Years ago, in Saint Louis, Mi., a young lady was brutalized by her boyfriend in a public park at a large fountain. The fountain was crowded, people were enjoying the water on a particularly hot day. The couple’s fight escalated to physical violence with the boyfriend striking the girl repeatedly. People fled the area and it took an 11 year old boy to run for the police. When the boy was interviewed and asked, ‘Why did you go to the police?’, the boy answered, ‘My Mom and Dad told me if I saw something bad happening I should call the police.’

    Out of all the people at the fountain that day, an 11 year old boy was the only person willing to get involved. I think this is indicative of society. People tend to be unwilling to put themselves at risk to help others. Especially when its in their best interests to remain quiet.

    I wonder at the timing of all the reports. Harvey Weinstein for example. He’s credited with such films as “Gangs of New York” (2002) and “Shakespeare In Love” (1998), which date back 15 years or more. I wonder that there may have been a power struggle within Weinstein & Co. and when Harvey refused to abdicate the helm, the village decided it was through looking the other way.

    I still wonder whether the village is doing the right thing or acting in their own best interest.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Maria. What a sad story about the young lady in St. Louis and the lack of responsiveness from others. Unfortunately, altruism and compassion are not being modeled, rewarded, and acknowledged often enough in today’s society. It’s all about covering one’s own behind and not focusing on the impact on others.

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