Some time ago, and I’ve waited to post this so it was far in the past, I was on the safety committee of an event. We stated the policy in the opening session and identified the safety officers. After the event, which went off with no reported problems, we sent a follow-up survey asking if there were any problems that people didn’t feel comfortable reporting at the time.
There had been.
In response, one of the women said she hadn’t reported because, “I didn’t want to be remembered as the girl who had a problem.” So she dealt with it herself.
But here’s the thing. She wasn’t “the girl who had a problem.” She was the woman who stopped a problem. Someone else caused a problem.
One of the things that is so difficult about changing the environment that we live and work in is that we are taught not to rock the boat and to prioritize other people over our own safety and comfort. Let me be very clear, that when you report harassment, you are not the one rocking the boat. I applaud people who take the initiative to deal with matters on their own, while at the same time railing against a society that makes us want to avoid making things awkward.
But… when dealing with someone who has predatory or problematic behavior, you’re never the only victim.
Later, we received two more reports that there was a problem attendee. None of them had wanted to rock the boat.
Please, please know that when you report harassment, you are not the problem. You are brave and wonderful and never, ever the problem. There are some people who will dismiss your concerns, who will claim that it isn’t really harassment but they are wrong. You are not the problem.
The problem is with a society that trains us that we aren’t allowed to object. Harassers harass because they can get away with it. They are savvy and choose their targets carefully, aiming for people that can’t fight back. You will not have been their only victim.
So when you can fight back by reporting? Please do.
And when you can’t, also know that staying quiet and safe doesn’t mean that you are a coward. It does mean that we have a totally screwed up society. But you, you, are not the problem.