Nearly half of all women in the workforce say they have “personally experienced an unwelcome sexual advance or verbal or physical harassment at work,” and 17% of American women survive sexual violence in their lifetime. Every 98 seconds in our nation, another American woman is sexually assaulted..
It is time for all Marylanders to stand up and ensure that sexual harassment and assault is rooted out once and for all, starting with state government.
Just like Hollywood, there is a well-documented political culture of misogyny and objectification that allows sexual harassment to persist, despite the long-term, dogged efforts of organizations like the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the Women’s Law Center, and political leadership from the Women Legislators of Maryland—who have been focusing on this issue even before it was the subject of a national spotlight. By condoning inappropriate touching, sexual comments, innuendo, jokes about assault, and conversations in the workplace or social settings about sexual conquest (so-called “locker room talk”), bystanders tacitly permit the sexual harassment in which their peers engage. This misogynist culture is reflected in Maryland continuing to be one of the only states that gives parental rights to rapists.
Fortunately, nearly two-thirds of Americans now view workplace harassment as a serious issue. Individuals of all genders can be affected, regardless of their politics, socioeconomic status, or position in society. Though more rare, women have also abused positions of power. Indeed, one of the first court judgments under sexual harassment law was against a woman who made sexual demands of a male subordinate.
Although there is more work to do, Maryland has several important laws and administrative policies on the books intended to address sexual harassment and assault. For example, in the last few General Assembly sessions, laws have passed to remove legal requirements that forced women to prove that they “fought back” in order to secure a rape conviction (SB217/HB429) and ensure that unpaid interns are protected under the law (2015 HB229/SB604). However, laws and policies are only words on a page, if we do not address the cultural norms perpetuating sexual harassment and violence to in our culture.
1. Create dedicated Office of Sexual Harassment and Violence:
2. Require disclosure to confirm those seeking public employment and state business have not engaged in sexual harassment
3. Address sexual harassment and violence in middle schools and high schools and on college campuses: