BOOM. That, or dropping a ton of brick on your desk, it’s exactly the same thing. If one of your employees, of your collaborators reveals to you that she experienced a sexual assault, it is because she has great confidence in you. She entrusts you with her biggest secret, you have no right to let her down …
What is worse than being assaulted? Not being believed.
Often, exposing one’s assault to one’s employer is not a choice. One can feel rejected, humiliated, judged and so on. With the advent of #metoo, the number of accusations has drastically increased. I do not have statistics, but I am sure that the number of managers, HR advisors, OHS stakeholders who have had to support an employee living this type of trauma has followed the trend.
Can you please reduce my unnecessary stress?
Following my assault, I chose not to stop going to work. Staying at home doing nothing would have been of no help to me. Keeping my mind busy was a great help. On the other hand, it is really difficult to explain to the employer what he needs to do to help me get better.
I do not like the word victim, what a lousy label! I do not like the word survivor either, I do not know why. What was important for me is that my life goes on so that my abuser doesn’t win. In my head, if I stop everything, he wins. And he is not going to win with me.
There are no better solutions …
I was fortunate to be able to name my needs and discuss them frankly with my employer, even if it was not easy. In my humble opinion, the best question to ask is, “How can I help you and be there for you?”
No one handles this type of incident in the same way. I would still like to share some attitudes and behaviors that can better help the employee in question.
- Avoid judgments — Listen. By listening, one keeps the mouth closed, without trying to prepare the answer you will give.
- Avoid doubting — Believe what your employee is telling you. I do not know anyone who invents a sexual assault for a few paid days off.
- Avoid trivializing – “Well, come on, he just put his fingers in your vagina, this is not exactly a rape” Do I need to go further?
- Avoid the armchair critic part – I’ll explain myself. It’s always easy to question the decisions and choices that were made before the incidents. You were not there. Just listen and offer empathy.
- Avoid completely ignoring the victim — Maybe you do not feel comfortable supporting your collaborator personally. However, nothing prevents you from being honest and transparent about your uneasiness and offer other resources.
- Avoid placing the blame on her – We’re in 2019, give me a break with the “slut shaming”please!
- Avoid being overprotective – The goal of a victim is to take the time to go through their emotions as they wish and then resume the course of their “normal” life. Instead, encourage her to be self-sufficient by letting her know that you are there for her if needed.
- Avoid “turning the page” for her – Your employee has the right to experience her emotions at her own pace. They can range from anger, to sadness to all sorts of other things. Respect that, please.
Finally, as the police investigation and the judicial proceedings on the events that concern me are still ongoing at the time of writing these, I will not answer any questions about this event directly. All the examples mentioned above are fictitious.
I have the privilege of having more than 40 000 subscribers, so I chose to use this forum to start the discussion. Thank you for reading and I strongly encourage you to share this article. I hope it will make a difference, even if only for one person.