Silent culture around sexual harassment

 

Sir, – The recent bullying and sexual harassment accounts from Hollywood, Ireland and elsewhere are despicable and unacceptable. The alleged perpetrators should be held to account; and right or wrong the internet and social media are playing a role in this.

As worrying as the actions and hurt themselves are, the exposed culture of acceptance, silence, fear and complicity from people in these organisations and circles is equally unacceptable.

While An Taoiseach “Varadkar backs Gate Theatre’s move to address sexual harassment claims” (Front page, November 3rd), the Government has a role to play.

Where State funding is granted for organisations, criteria should include having in place: a) A sexual harassment policy – see Department of Justice: Code of practice in sexual harassment and harassment at work 2012. b) An anti-bullying policy – see Department of Justice: Code of practice for employers and employees on the prevention and resolution of bullying at work. c) A whistleblowing policy outlining clear and agreed procedures for “whistleblowing” (in line with the Protected Disclosures Act 2014).

Organisations should look at: 1. Having a maximum term of office for the top position – for example our civil service has a seven-year term for secretary general positions. 2. Beginning conversations with their staff, management and boards on these issues. People need ongoing training in anti-bullying and harassment at all levels of the organisation, including a transparent and fair procedure (and independent if necessary) to report incidents.

Finally I would like to thank both the women and men who have told of their experiences, including individuals who have spoken out about their silence at the time they witnessed harassment.

Now is the time for us all to work together to challenge and change this culture of sexual harassment and the silence that allowed it to become normal and protected. – Yours, etc,

HELEN RYAN,

Ringsend, Dublin 4.