Sexual assault is a big problem in the fashion industry. It often goes unchecked and unheard of, despite being so prevalent. Sexual harassment can be very damaging to victims, both mentally and physically. There are many ways that you can help prevent sexual assault in your workplace or even just on the street. In this blog post, we will discuss 4 different strategies for preventing sexual assault in the fashion industry!
Prevention training for everyone
Most companies that I talk to require their employees to go through sexual harassment prevention training once a year. The problem with this strategy is that it does not address the underlying issue of what causes someone to harass another person. Sexual assault is committed by individuals who choose to take advantage of other individuals, which means that even if you go through sexual harassment prevention training you can still be an offender. There are many ways to prevent sexual assault in the workplace without turning it into something negative like sexual harassment prevention training. One way would be to incorporate consent culture into your mandatory training so that employees know how their actions will affect others and how they can help change the narrative around sex and sexuality!
Hold HR accountable
Human resources are the department within an organization that many would consider responsible for holding colleagues accountable. They are usually the ones who handle sexual harassment cases, which does mean they are supposed to protect their employees from being harassed or assaulted at work. However, this is not always the case since there have been many reported incidences of HR preventing people from reporting sexual assault by telling them that it’s just a part of being in the business! I’ve even heard stories about HR workers protecting assailants rather than their victims because it was made out to be a consensual encounter when it was not. There need to be accountability measures put in place so that these things do not happen because it retraumatizes survivors and prevent them from getting the help they need.
Zero Tolerance Policy
Many companies create a zero-tolerance policy in regards to sexual harassment and assault, but few enforce it. For there to be a change, organizations must give consequences when employees violate this policy. Some examples of these consequences can be giving community service hours or paying fines that will go toward supporting organizations that work against gender-based violence. The key is enforcing the punishment and ensuring that your colleagues understand what you will do if they break the rules!
Listen to complaints
The most important thing we can all do to prevent sexual assault is to listen to survivors and ask them what we can do to help support them. When I was still working in the industry, many of my colleagues didn’t believe me when I told them what had happened. They gave me justifications for my assailant’s behavior and tried to brush it off as consensual because we worked together and we were friends at one point. The fact is that there should never be a situation where someone who has been assaulted ends up feeling like they’ve done something wrong by reporting their perpetrator! Listening to your employees and believing their stories go a long way towards building trust within an organization. It also allows those who have experienced sexual assault to heal from their trauma without having others invalidate their pain.
These steps are a great place to start but they should not be considered the only ways you can prevent sexual assault from occurring within your company. The more creative you get with these ideas, the better off you will be! Just remember that prevention efforts must go beyond mandatory training and have clear consequences for offenders to truly change the culture of any organization.
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