2017 has been the year of sexual harassment. In the saddest but most inspirational way possible, this has been a good thing. Let me explain.
Yesterday evening, a jury reached a unanimous verdict that Taylor Swift's claim of being groped by Denver radio DJ David Mueller was the truth. The incident happened at a meet-and-greet in 2013 and after Swift's team notified Mueller's management, he was promptly fired. In response, he sued her for $3 million in damages, saying she cost him his job.
She immediately counter-sued for a mere $1 (that's right, there are no extra zeros after that one) for assault and battery, a symbolic move to help inspire women everywhere to stand up for themselves. After a grueling week in trial, the jury granted Swift closure that Mueller could no longer play the blame game.
Let's backtrack a little to earlier this year, when Susan J. Fowler, a former engineer at Uber, released an award-worthy blog post about her frustrating experience at the company. For the short year and one month she was there, Fowler had a manager make sexual advances on her and a non-compliant HR team who berated her for saying anything about it (just to name a few).
And just for the record, let's throw in Jennifer Hyman, CEO and co-founder of Rent The Runway. On her latest interview with Guy Raz on How I Built This, she admits to experiencing sexual harassment from an investor who sent continual explicit text messages. She had plans to ignore him altogether until he complained to a board member that she was an unresponsive CEO and they should rethink her position. Of course, her evidence was strong and the board terminated all relations with the unnamed investor and his firm.
Although it frustrates me that these stories are just one of thousands, part of me is equally thankful that these strong women are carving the path for other women in similar positions to not stand by and watch incredulous behavior happen without consequence. Why does this even matter?
It all comes down to this: No one deserves to be disrespected and then made to feel guilty for it.
We're lucky to hear that the end of these stories bode pretty well--all of these women are still changing the world in their respective professions, but we know that's not the case for all who have been in that situation.
Whether it be politics or pure intimidation, some are stuck to accept this predicament or told that it's not a big deal.
I, along with Swift, Fowler, and Hyman, am here to tell you that it is a big deal and yes you need to stand up for yourself.
If you have ever been in a situation similar to the ones above, please hear me: You have to do something about it. You didn't get this far in life to be belittled or toyed with. You are destined for things far greater than this one person who doesn't understand the basics of respect and kindness, an inherent flaw that won't get them far in life anyway. Read: you are deserving of so much better.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released a report stating: "Almost one-third of the approximately 90,000 charges received by EEOC in fiscal year 2015 included an allegation of workplace harassment. Roughly three out of four individuals who experienced harassment never even talked to a supervisor, manager, or union representative about the harassing conduct."
Let's make a pact to change these numbers for the better.
If you ever find yourself in a predicament like the three strong women above, take these cues and never stop fighting for what you believe in.
1. Stand your ground.
Perpetrators will try to tell you that you're wrong, but as Swift firmly testified in her trial, "I'm not going to allow you or your client to make it seem like this is in any way my fault, because it isn't."
2. Use your voice.
Susan J. Fowler knew that spreading the word around Uber wasn't going to do much in a political environment. So, she hopped on her own platform and did what she did best: write. That, partnered with the power of our viral share culture, went beyond anything anyone could have ever imagined.
3. Gather a strong support system.
This point is not here to help you create a squad that will put your perpetrator into a corner (although, that does sound really tempting). Instead, it's a reminder to surround yourself with people who are not going to make you feel crazy and embarrassed because of what happened. Keep those close who understand and will help you fight the fight.