Response is best known for our services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in the Roaring Fork Valley — work which we have been doing for more than 35 years. But we are also here for people who are victims of sexual harassment, a problem that has been in the news media a lot lately. The stories of men using their power to harass and abuse women that have erupted into the national consciousness since last October, and the viral #MeToo movement, have highlighted that sexual harassment is rampant across our society. Unfortunately, we see it all too often in our community as well.
Tuesday’s Aspen Daily News highlighted the arrest of a 52-year-old man who was harassing some local teenage girls as they tried to enjoy a day wandering around Aspen. Fortunately, they had the wherewithal to take his photo and call the police and this repeat offender is being brought to justice. But that is not always the case. Earlier this winter a group of middle school students approached our staff after a school presentation on dating violence and said that they’d been touched and grabbed inappropriately by a male classmate and targeted with sexual rumors. They did not feel that anyone would listen to them, but fortunately we were there to help. After a community presentation, several restaurant workers asked Response staff to intervene with a supervisor who was sexually harassing and threatening them. We were able to work with their employer to make sure the perpetrator was removed from his position and that sexual harassment training was put into place for all employees.
Whether perpetrated by an adult or a child, a co-worker or a stranger, sexual harassment is never OK. As a community we need to say “time’s up” — we will not accept anyone being treated this way. Sexual harassment flourishes when it goes unchecked. When people believe that they can get away with these behaviors and victims feel that they will not be heard or respected, the problem grows. The national dialogue around sexual harassment is raising people’s awareness and we need to take advantage of this momentum to create real change.
Response wants to remind victims of sexual harassment that they can access our free and confidential services, which include individual support, advocacy and referrals to other resources. We also want to help teachers, employers, survivors and workers create change in the workplace and school environments to better respond to sexual harassment.
So if you see something, say something. If you need help, reach out. Only by working together will we be able to shift our culture to make safer, more respectful and more equitable environments in our workplaces, schools, gyms, bars and public spaces.
No one is in this alone. Everyone is impacted by sexual harassment. Let’s fix it. Call our 24-hour crisis line at 925-SAFE or our office at 920-5357.
Txell Pedragosa, Program Director, Response