Sexual Harassment Policies Should Be Gender Neutral
By Bernadette Chlebeck and Phil Cunliffe
When you hear the words “Sexual Harassment Policy,” what image comes to your mind? Most likely you envision a female victim and a male perpetrator. If you do, you are not alone. Statistics from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission show that 82.2% of reported sexual harassment charges were filed by females. The atheist community has had its share of sexual harassment violations, and sexual harassment policies are now being created to help protect women.
The atheist community should be a leader in the effort to identify sexual harassment for the abuse that it is and to make it clear that it will not be tolerated, especially in our own community. But as we do this we must remember that anyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, can be a victim of sexual harassment. It is all too easy to forget that 17.8% of people who report being sexually harassed are male.
We should also look for the best way to communicate our policies during events sponsored by atheist groups. Ideally, we can address the serious nature of the topic without creating discomfort for the audience.
It is especially important to address the issue of male victims. For many men who are victims of sexual harassment, it can be extremely difficult to know what to do or how to bring up the topic. Often, sexual harassment of men is regarded as funny or trivial. If you are laughing as you read this article, you are probably not alone. But if our community is going to be a safe place for everyone, we must make our sexual harassment policies equal with respect to both gender and sexual orientation, and we must enforce them rigorously. Tolerating even a single case of sexual harassment will only tend to drive people away.