My daughters are 25 and 22 and by now both my wife and I have had numerous talks with them about sexual harassment and how to deal with it, stop it in its tracks, etc.
With all the media coverage and seeing how pervasive this problem of sexual harassment is, both in the workplace and in universities, we need to have these talks early with our daughters and sons. If I were to write a letter to them now as a loving, concerned parent who wants my children to be free of the effects of sexual harassment, here would be my letter:
You are both precious, precious to me and just plain precious! You are worthy; you have so much value and you need to treat yourself that way and make sure others do as well.
You both deal or have dealt with people in authority and people who can offer something you want whether it is a job or some other type of opportunity, even acceptance into some group you want to be a part of. Some of these people (and I want to believe most of these people) are good people who will treat you like you are valued.
However, some might use your vulnerability, your desire to fulfill a dream or your innocence to get something they want even if it is not good for you. Even the healthiest among us might be inclined to sacrifice our values to get something that is very important or to avoid something that is scary to us.
Just know, that your mother and I are always here for you.
I would rather you not get that promotion or get that dance job and be true to yourself than let someone manipulate you into a compromising situation. Or to stay in an environment where you are being sexually harassed.
Sexual harassment can be physical or verbal. It includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.
Listen to your own body and notice what you are feeling.
If you feel degraded in any way or intimidated, pay attention to these feelings. Those feelings are not happening in a vacuum; it has something to do with the way you are being treated.
You both know what it is like to feel safe; you have had teachers, professors and bosses who you felt comfortable with.
You felt their respect. These feelings let you know that these authority figures met your standards. If any authority figure, coworker, classmate or ‘friend’ does not meet this standard, let us know, let the Human Resources Department know, let another authority figure know. And make sure they act on your behalf. If not, that organization or company is not worthy of you!
Keep your boundaries.
And look, I am not blaming the women who we are hearing about in the news who did not speak up. They were put into very compromising positions. I loved Oprah’s speech on the Golden Globes. Listen to it if you have not already. I blame the sexual harassers; they are the only ones I blame and Oprah speaks so clearly on behalf of these women. I am just trying to do a little prevention here and these women have paved the way for both of you so that it is easier for you to speak up and not take the behavior that these female victims took.
That’s all I want to write for now. This letter is not to make you anxious; it is just to make you aware of what is out there both good and bad.
And also to be aware of how you feel and to act on your own behalf.
I love you both so much!