THIS: would have made me feel safer at the CBC

“A picture of a sign on the ground between the Washington bridge and the Science Education building at the University of Minnesota” (photo credit: http://trouble.room34.com/archives/tag/safety )

My mom instilled in me a strong sense of ownership so I am unable to complain about a problem without offering solutions – even if they are solutions that would work for me and might not work for others. I figure at the very least, this conversation should be happening no matter how uncomfortable or controversial it might be.

Here are some of the things I felt when I came forward with my own experiences being harassed within the Broadcast Centre in Toronto and my ideas for
actions HR or the Union or my bosses could have taken that would have made me feel safer (NB: I was not a CMG member at the time I reported, so they were not an option for me ).

I felt … Actionable solutions
Worried for my job because I was reporting on someone I worked with. Clear assurances that the boss above both of us (myself and the person who was doing the harassing) would be told of these issues – anonymously if that is how I felt comfortable. I would have felt more secure with that in mind.
Desperation for the harassment to stop immediately You shouldn’t have to wait days or weeks to get relief from the situation. From other women I have spoken to about this I heard that they were the ones (the harassed in other words) who were moved ‘out of the situation’ rather than the person they were reporting on. Think outside the box please. There are other solutions to this problem.
A lack of control I’d like a reported harassment to be like a transaction in some ways (I know, it’s cold, but hear me out) – where notes are taken, and where both parties get copies of the notes as signed by each. Then we wouldn’t run into what this former CBC employee is running into with an incident with Jian she believed she had reported and no file or records to be found to support her.
Anxious feelings of possible retribution I will only speak for myself in this case, but I found whenever I stood up to this one harasser about a specific thing that made me uncomfortable, he would switch gears and apply a different tack – like calling me by a weird nickname for a month instead. If you can’t pull the aggressor out of the situation then someone needs to clearly explain to him/her that a file has been opened and he/she are being observed.
A quickness to Anger/Tears/Anxiety In this case I think a small group could be formed where employees can speak to others who are dealing with or have dealt with these types of issues. Like many other traumatic things that happen to us in our lives, we can feel very alone. I remember this from when I had my first miscarriage (another awkward subject). Every second women I divulged that to would answer with a similar story of loss, and it astounded me. We don’t talk about it so we aren’t able to comfort each other about it.
A sense of hopelessness I’d like to know that reporting this, tracking it, getting witnesses, whatever it is you ask us to do to prove that we are being harassed actually leads to something concrete. How about some anecdotes? How about some evidence? Yes, we hear Jian was removed from the CBC because someone in management was provided with evidence of his behaviour – but that is one example and it is pretty extreme. How about when someone is let go because of their harassing behaviour it is not swept under a rug. How about we declare that we as a community within the CBC have a zero-tolerance for harassment and THAT is why that person lost their job?
Worried that I wouldn’t be
believed or taken seriously
The person who hears the complaints has to be trained and trained well to take in this kind of information. The phrase “he’s from a different generation” or “she’s harmless” or “our hands are tied, he’s a host!” are not acceptable answers to a reported harassment. We are not children and they are not Gods. We take it seriously, you need to too. Take notes, be trained to offer help. Take us seriously immediately from the very first report.
Guilty because this person is a friend… Sometimes the person who is doing the harassing is a friend. Or sometimes you are not being harassed directly but are watching a friend do the harassing. So we won’t speak up when we witness things because we don’t want our friends to get in trouble and we don’t feel empowered to speak up ourselves. So what then? Should we have politeness marshals for the floor? Like we have fire marshals? Perhaps the support group is a good solution for this as well – somewhere where you can bring your concerns to a group and talk about potential ways to handle it together.

I know there are going to be some people reading this who will rightfully ask about the rights of the accused. I don’t see any of these actions as intruding on those rights, but I am open to discussion if you disagree. If you are wrongly accused (which is the worry I hear voiced most often) then being told you are being observed is a chance to prove that the accusations are unsubstantiated. I believe that by telling someone that a file has been opened on them that this becomes a more transparent process – they are aware that something specific they are doing makes someone else feel uncomfortable and they are in control of stopping it. If I heard that pulling someone’s hair made them feel uncomfortable (yes that happened to me) I would avoid even standing to close to them. I would go above and beyond so that they would never feel that way around me again. But that’s just me maybe : )

I also believe that by limiting the information about this issue to (1) the person who files the report, (2) the HR/Union Rep, (3) the accused and (4) the boss of both of those people we can avoid any worries about reputation loss for either party.

As always, let me know what you think (politely please. Or your comments will be removed. This webmaster has no patience for rudeness).

** NB: This piece was reprinted with my permission at Rabble.ca **

Jian has made it hard to trust eachother and ourselves

I wasn’t planning to write about Jian at all but I find myself making these points to myself through out the past week – might as well try to package them into something halfway coherent.

I left CBC Radio last year to write novels – a dream that I was determined to pursue and needed the time and space of non-full-time work to fulfill. Fulfill it I did, with the support of many of my friends inside that building where I had spent my entire journalistic career. More than 200 of my CBC family came to my book launch in Toronto and many more bought my books and wrote to me to express their pride that I had ‘done it.’

That’s why when the news about Jian broke last week my heart just… contracted. I immediately started looking inwards like many of my colleagues in the Toronto CBC building. I thought of all the young women I had met at Q, and my own employees whom I had assigned to work on Q’s website and podcast over the years. I wondered if any of them had been hurt by this man. I backed away from the social media shit-storm as much as I could. Friends from outside my CBC life immediately texted/emailed/poked/prodded me for details and I gave them monosyllabic answers. I felt close to tears whenever I thought about my friends still in the building who now had this to deal with in their daily lives. Everyone was asking the same question: who knew what and when did they know?

My brain was focused on remembering every personal interaction with the host of Q. My conclusion based solely on my experience is this: yes he was flirty and a little handsy with me, but the truth is: no more so than other men within that building.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Jian didn’t see me ‘that way’ (which was lucky in hindsight since the women he DID see that way have suffered greatly) but there were plenty of men who did.

And that is where I am in my head today: with a list of men at the CBC in Toronto who were MORE inappropriate to me than Jian ever was. I don’t wish to compare my sexual harassment complaints to those reported by the brave Lucy DeCoutere, Reva Seth and the other 8 women who have come forward so far – my sincere hope is that they get their day in court and see their abuser behind bars.

But what about the rest of that list who are still working at the CBC? What about the male & female managers complicit in allowing this type of behaviour to continue? From the female manager who when I approached her about being sexually harassed advised me to ‘dress more appropriately’ to the HR manager who told me that capturing a few harassing emails would not be enough to start a report on someone.

There is no safe place. And now, because of Jian and people like him, there is no trust.

**NB: Since posting this I have heard from several people who felt that perhaps I was putting ALL men I worked with at CBC on this list. That is not my intention. Most of the men and women I worked with in my fourteen years at CBC were exceptional people who were supportive and professional to me every single day. This is a very short list of men who harassed me while I worked at CBC Toronto and trust me, they know who they are.