Why Women Are Silent About Sexual Harassment

This article Why Women Are Silent | Justine Larbalestier reminds us all, that sexual harassment and rape are  legitimised by a culture that accept this as normal and that tells women that they are over-reacting when they try and object or speak out.

In the 1990s I worked for a Australian Commonwealth Department  that shall be nameless.  But is probably recognised by many as soon as I say that the Secretary of the Department was a well known and constant sexual harassment menace.  While nothing was ever done to address the problem, there were many things done to manage it.

For example, at every event attended by the Secretary a minder was appointed to follow him and to stop him finding a reason for going out of the social space alone with any women or sharing a car home and so on.  They told me they had to be quite vigilant.  This was an official part of someone’s job and no-one seemed to think this unacceptable.

But the appalling-ness of this normalising culture really came home to me on one particular day when I had to report on an important project, that was running into problems, to a  meeting of all the senior executives.  At one point I said ‘ What will be the consequences of this project not delivering on time?”

The answer from a senior male bureaucrat: ” You get to spend an hour alone with the Secretary”.  This was in front of over 40 senior public servants many of them female.   I don’t remember that anyone objected, but the laughter rang in my ears for a long time. I can still recall my sense of  angry humiliation.

I do understand why women are silent but to this day I wish I had named this talk for what is was.


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