Saying It’s OK Doesn’t Mean the Harassment Was Welcome

This is a DisruptHR talk that will disrupt your way of thinking about the victims of sexual harassment — that way so many of us declare, “Why did she put up with it? I would have left.”

To explain that, Kate Bischoff, attorney and HR consultant at tHRive Law & Consulting, uses a family holiday dinner: Your mom guilts you into coming only to seat you next to your racist uncle, the one with no filter between brain and mouth. You put up with him to keep peace, biting your tongue and counting the minutes until you can get out of there.

“This is exactly what harassment victims are doing every single day,” Bischoff says.

“Harassment victims are looking at harassment in a way that is just like dealing with a racist uncle, except they’re worried about their job, they’re worried about their kids, they’re worried about the mortgage payment, they’re worried about groceries, they’re worried about the car payment and most of all, they’re worried about telling their friends this is what’s happening to them.”

When a harassment victim does speak, Bischoff tells her Brookings, SD DisruptHR audience to let go of the “welcomeness” of the behavior. When a victim shrugs off an encounter with an “It’s OK,” it doesn’t really mean it was OK any more than saying that meant what your uncle was saying was acceptable.

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Instead, “focus on the actual behavior… [the first step] is stopping talk about welcomeness.”

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