How do we get people to speak up?

November 13, 2017 | by Mary Lou Mastro

Every day, it seems, a new revelation about sexual harassment becomes public information.

The floodgates have opened. It took the courage of one person speaking out to get the ball rolling. And now the power has shifted and victims are feeling brave enough to call out their harassers.

For too many years, these despicable acts were bottled up inside victims’ hearts and minds, wreaking havoc on their mental health and well-being.

That the story continues with the #MeToo hashtag shows this isn’t a Hollywood problem but something more pervasive. Of course, sexual harassment isn’t a new phenomenon. But publicly acknowledging it, and being backed up by the majority, is.

Some of these women have stayed silent about their ordeals for 30-plus years! There are serious consequences to having that kind of suppressed anger.

Forbes recently reported on a study that shows sexual harassment could cause victims to experience long-term physical symptoms.

And NBC News published an article examining the effect sexual harassment has on victims’ health. From the NBC article:

“Employees talk of having a pit in their stomach commuting to work, having anxiety, panic attacks, inexplicable fits of crying and physical manifestations of stress: hair falling out, hives, weight gain or loss, sleeplessness and lethargy,” says [Nannina] Angioni.

Dr. [Colleen] Cullen adds that the feelings of shame or guilt that a person may feel when sexually harassed at work can devastate their self-esteem and sense of self-worth as a professional.

These are major side effects. At Edward-Elmhurst Health, we have worked hard to create a safe workplace free from harassment, including sexual harassment. We have policies and mechanisms for people to safely report harassment. Just as we have trained everyone to speak up for patient safety, it is equally as important to speak up for your own safety.

It’s important for people to realize this is not acceptable behavior and that we expect any employee who is experiencing harassment to talk to their supervisor, HR or call the compliance hotline.

We follow up on all calls.

For victims of harassment, not only does fear or repulsion get in the way of your work, suppressing your feelings can damage your heart (literally!) and mind.

We know it’s difficult. We know it’s awful. But if you have been a victim, we want you to summon the strength within yourself to speak up. We’ll stand with you.

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