“You look just like my sex doll,” said the older male executive, who followed on by saying that it was taking “all my self-control right now not to grab your ass”.
Surely this is just cringeworthy dialect from a major corporation’s low-budget sexual harassment awareness video?
They’re words that came out of the mouth of a high profile tourism ‘professional’ to one of your peers during a recent industry event. He uttered them after she had experienced several uninvited advances from a different patron, including the unexpected touching of her upper back thigh and rear.
When she finally managed to escape him, she nervously shared details of the encounter with a friend and quickly learned that this wasn’t the first time he’d been accused of sexually harassing a woman at a work event. He allegedly had a ‘reputation’ for making women in travel feel uncomfortable and yet his anti-social behaviour remained ‘hush hush’ and he continues to receive invites to industry gatherings.
Later, when she told KARRYON about the situation, she shrugged off his behaviour, saying “it’s okay, it’s normal right?”
NO. Sexual harassment is NOT normal and is most definitely not ok.
If the recent #metoo movement teaches us anything, it’s that these people in power shouldn’t be allowed to get away with sexual harassment nor should they be celebrated or permitted to attend social occasions where they see opportunities to push a woman’s face into their stomach as a “joke” or touch, grab and rub against unwilling participants in the name of “a bit of fun”.
Industry events should be safe places where colleagues and peers can have fun – not a place to be violated or made to feel uncomfortable.
If someone’s advances are making you feel uncomfortable or they’re touching you without your permission, it’s sexual harassment and just like any other criminal behaviour, it’s traumatising and it should be reported.
On that note, here are seven things we recommend anyone in the travel industry and beyond (female or male) should do if they’ve been sexually harassed at an industry night out:
1. Make it clear to them that it’s not okay
When a woman in the travel industry says ‘no’, she means ‘no’.
It’s a powerful word – use it and use it clearly.
If he/she somehow skipped early learning years and never quite learned the word, move onto step two.
2. Find a bartender & ‘ask for Angela’
The hospitality industry now has a code that patrons can use in unsafe situations – “ask for Angela”.
All you do is go to the bar, find a bartender and say ‘have you seen Angela?’. They’ll assist you from there.
The safety initiative started in London last year and has rolled out worldwide to become the international code for help.
Read more about it here.
3. Notify the event organiser
If organisers aren’t made aware of the criminal activity taking place at their event, they won’t be able to do anything about it.
They also won’t know to leave that person off future guest lists. Which perhaps sounds a little soft. But is most certainly a step in the right direction.
Be sure to notify them of any incidents as soon as possible.
We’ve heard stories of people being banned from industry events for sexually harassing other attendees. If true, we praise these organisers for taking action.
4. If you see something – SAY SOMETHING
All of us have a part to play in this issue.
While they say “It takes a village to raise a child”, the same could be said for the travel industry coming together to end this problem.
Not everyone who has been affected will speak up and share their experience for a variety of fear-based reasons.
“No-one will believe me”, “They were only joking”, “I don’t want to make a fuss” to name but a few.
It’s simple: If you see someone being harassed or in distress, tell someone.
Because if you don’t, who will?
5. Always report the situation to your boss
As mentioned earlier, despite their filthy reputation these people continue to receive industry invitations.
If you notify your boss of the situation then hopefully they’ll find a way to ensure you’re never near or at the same function as your harasser.
You’ll also be putting it on record that ‘Yes’, this did happen.
6. Report the incident to the police
Today it’s inappropriate touching, tomorrow it’s something more severe.
Reporting incidents to the authorities will ensure that the sexual harasser understands that his/her behaviour will NOT be accepted in or out of the industry.
If you have witnesses or peers who saw what happened, then make sure they speak up to.
At the very least, your complaint will go on official record so that police know if he/she is a multiple offender.
7. Remember, it’s not your fault!
Don’t ever blame yourself for someone else’s criminal behaviour.
They’re the ones that don’t understand respect or personal space and so, therefore, they’re the ones at fault.
Your skirt WASN’T too short – they’re creeps.
You WEREN’T walking alone in the dark – they’re creeps.
You WEREN’T dancing suggestively – they’re creeps.
The travel industry is one of the most social you will find and is what makes it such an amazing industry to be a part of. Being harassed however will never be acceptable and is a minority element that all of us can play our part in helping to stamp out.
Have you ever felt or been sexually harassed at an industry event? Share your story with us by emailing [email protected]
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