Lately the news has been filled with stories of harassment, assault and abuse of women. In Canada Jian Ghomeshi has made the news with women claiming he has sexually assaulted and harassed them. We have had some Canadian Members of Parliaments accused of harassing their co-workers. In the United States women are coming forth with allegations against Bill Cosby. A video of a woman enduring 10 hours of street harassment has gone viral.
As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and a woman who has experienced her share of harassment by men I tend to believe victims when they speak up, especially in a public way. I am also a feminist. So, I had a very interesting weekend when my own husband was accused by a female in his place of work of what would probably amount to harassment. What she said exactly was that my husband was bullying her and she felt threatened. There was a very real possibility he could have gotten fired over her claims.
Some things I know about my husband-he is muscly, he is a little gruff, he says what he thinks. Do I think people could be offended by him? Sure. Do I think it is possible people might find him intimidating or even threatening? Perhaps.
However, a few other things I know about my husband-he is a feminist, with a wife, and two daughters that are now young women he takes the treatment of women seriously, he wants his daughters to feel safe and comfortable in any environment, I also know that he has stuck up for women in the workplace before, he works on a job where the ratio is approximately 60 men for every 1 woman and the women he has worked with in the past have found him to be respectful and a safe person for them to talk to when they have been facing problems at work.
So, I found myself questioning my past belief that one should always believe the person claiming to be the victim.
In my husband’s case the issue resolved itself quite quickly. He claims that the woman accusing him actually started yelling at him and being verbally abusive towards him. When he finally told her she needed to stop, she didn’t like that and went to tell the bosses that he was being a bully. Fortunately for him he had numerous witnesses both male and female who could verify his version of events. The woman who accused him also has a history of making complaints against other men at work and yelling at various people in the workplace. Finally, although she wanted to get him fired and went to two bosses attempting to do so, she ultimately refused to put her complaint in writing.
If someone messes with my family, I get riled up. And I was definitely not happy with the thought that some person could make false accusations against my husband and possibly get him fired.
But what really got me mad about this situation is this woman’s behavior is a betrayal to other woman, to genuine victims. Because this woman can’t seem to keep herself in control, her actions are a stab in the back of other women. When a woman cries wolf over and over as this woman apparently does (she has made similar complaints against more than half a dozen men in the past couple months) people begin to doubt real victims. This is unacceptable. It bothers me to think that because of her behavior, if another woman working there (possibly my daughter) comes forward with a complaint against a co-worker they may not be believed. But if men repeatedly get falsely accused of inappropriate behavior, what else will the outcome be? I can only hope that people realize that just because one woman lies it doesn’t mean all women lie, just like because one man rapes doesn’t mean all men rape.
Feeling threatened in the workplace is a real thing people endure, harassment happens every day, abuse is real, assaults do happen, and this is unacceptable. These issues need to be dealt with in a serious way. These are issues we still need to discuss. We also need to take responsibility for actions-both men and women. We need to be careful with words, because words matter. We also need to speak up when we see something going on that isn’t right.
For me, this little incident became a bit of a learning experience. I will probably still tend to believe people claiming to be victims, but may use a little more caution. It will make me more conscious of what I say and how I say things. I am thankful to the witnesses who came to my husband’s defense, especially the women who have to work side by side with the woman who made the accusation. I will remember this and speak up when I see something not right going on. Finally, I am always proud of my husband, but now even more. I am proud that he behaves in a way and is a person that women want to speak up and defend when he is being unjustly accused.