The #MeToo and Time’s Up movements have created space for someone who has experienced sexual harassment to find the courage to share their stories. Yet, many situations of sexual harassment still go unreported.
A 2018 Angus Reid survey found that over 50 per cent of Canadian women said they experienced sexual harassment at work, while almost 30 per cent said they experienced non-consensual touching at work. Nearly 9 out of 10 use preventive measures to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace. The survey also found little change in the number of women who said they would report from 2014 to 2018.
Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS) and Ending Violence Association of BC (EVABC) hope to change that with their Sexual Harassment Advice, Response, and Prevention for Workplaces (SHARP Workplaces) program. SHARP Workplaces provides free information, advice and education to address workplace sexual harassment throughout BC. Help is available to anyone who has experienced workplace sexual harassment.
“There are many reasons someone is fearful of coming forward. Sometimes clients aren’t sure if what they experienced was sexual harassment and if they can do anything. With SHARP Workplaces, you can speak to a lawyer to find out,” says Jennifer Khor, Supervising Lawyer for SHARP Workplaces at CLAS.
The SHARP Workplaces legal clinic, operated by CLAS, provides five hours of free, confidential legal advice to anyone who has experienced workplace sexual harassment in BC. A lawyer can advise if the conduct is sexual harassment and explain legal options that may be available. The lawyer may also help to draft or review documents or provide guidance through a legal process.
Sexual harassment can be traumatizing. It often impacts mental and physical health. SHARP Workplaces also provides referrals to services for additional support, such as counselling or employment services.
“Workplace sexual harassment is pervasive; it can occur in any workplace, to anyone. It may happen outside of the workplace. Gender non-binary, Indigenous and racialized persons may experience micro-aggressions. Men find it difficult to admit they are being harassed. We are here to help,” Khor notes.
SHARP Workplaces will also provide free education and training, led by EVABC, to small businesses, non-profits and Indigenous communities to improve understanding of workplace sexual harassment and effectively address it in the workplace. With education, employers are better equipped to prevent workplace sexual harassment and handle situations that arise.
To find out more about SHARP Workplaces training and education, visit the EVABC website.