We #MeToo, But Now What's Next?

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Written by (Storyteller & Entrepreneur): Elizabeth Ole

Socials: @Elizabethole

So the damage is done…

You’ve finally come forward to let HR know the misdeeds of that senior manager who everyone loved but never suspected would be a perpetrator of sexual harassment. Chances are that you’ve become office enemy number one just by sharing your story. There’s no doubt that coming forward alone is difficult, but what’s even more difficult is the added pressure of dealing with the naysayers and doubters –  you know the ones who either avoid you like a plague or talk endlessly behind your back about your quest for attention.

In the past year, sexual misconduct has been the topic of conversation. From the viral #MeToo movement led by Tarana Burke to the #TimesUp campaign championed by women in the entertainment industry, people have now become more socially conscious about problems that destroy the careers and lives of women everywhere.  A recent poll shows that nearly half of working women say they’ve experienced harassment. Some of these women fail to come forward knowing the stigma they would have to endure at their workplace.

When it comes to sexual abuse, being “woke” just isn’t enough; victims need your support and one way to show support is by helping them re-adjust into their roles and routines. The more a victim is isolated, the more culpable they feel.

If your co-worker has been harassed, the right thing to do would be to speak up! We hear it all the time, “silence means agreement”, and the same holds true in this situation. Not speaking up against the abuser will only make your co-worker believe that you’re in agreement with him.  As a fellow female co-worker, you should do your best to show empathy to the victim - simple gestures like leaving a cup of coffee on her table with a sticky note that says something encouraging or inviting her to sit next you at the cafeteria can help her feel more at ease.

If you’re a victim of work place harassment, you’ll most likely dread going back to work the minute your story is out in the open. Your mind will be occupied with endless questions – “What will my co-workers think?”, “How will I cope at work?”, “Will this affect my pay?” or “Will I be treated unfairly?”

As your thoughts begin to spiral, keep in mind that the situation you’re in is NOT your fault! Exposing your harasser is a praiseworthy thing – because it has the power to end the cycle of abuse. If anything, you’re a hero who should be celebrated for making the office a little safer for women! You shouldn’t have to give up your job because of someone else’s wrong doing.

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So, knowing this, how do you make your comeback to work? Here’s how!

Suit up

Some outfits have a way of making you feel super powerful. Sometimes it’s a suit and killer high stilettos, other times it’s a super tailored shift dress and a gorgeous tote – whatever outfit makes you feel more like a girl boss, rock it! Not only will looking good bring back your confidence, it’ll also give you a sense of control.

Stay professional

Some co-workers might try to get close to you in a bid to discover the details of your harassment. Avoid getting too personal! Never engage anyone at work who wants to hear the nitty-gritty details of your assault; they most likely don’t have your best interest at heart. Be cordial with your co-workers but remember that the office is first and foremost, a place of business. Focus on your assignments and be as professional as possible.                        

Start a movement  

Being part of a bigger cause can help you stay strong and inspired. You can start another movement or create a small community for working women who might have been harassed in your town or city. This will help you build a support system and keep your mind away from any work place drama.

 Keep a journal

Keeping a journal can be quite cathartic because it helps you express your feelings in ways you might not be able to verbalize. With your journal, you can monitor your healing process and also keep track of how your work relationships are evolving.

 Be optimistic

Not every co-worker is secretly plotting your downfall or seeking revenge against you. Think positively and try as much as possible not to snap at honest co-workers who extend a hand of friendship or show solidarity in some way.

At the end of the day, the most important thing is your well-being. If you’re not ready to return to your work place, it’s okay to give yourself time or start a new journey, but when you eventually do, make sure you strut into that new office with all the confidence you can muster.

Why?

Well, because you have absolutely NOTHING to be ashamed of!

Written by (Storyteller & Entrepreneur): Elizabeth Ole

Socials: @Elizabethole

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