TW: Sexual Assault
I was driving to the gym when I saw a truck going slowly down the street. As I approached, I saw the older man leaning out of his truck door. A woman walking slowly with her head down. I put my window down. “Hey, do you know him?” She shook her head no.
I am stubborn and in this moment that side of me appeared. The man waved me around and I ignored the gestures. I waited less than a minute before the man decided to pull away. “I’m good, thank you,” she said with a wave as my car slowly rolled away.
I hear stories like this too often, but the endings are different. People act like they can’t do anything when someone is being intentionally intimidating or making someone else uncomfortable, but you don’t recognize your power just being there. Sitting there. Waiting.
In the past, I’ve had moments where I thought I didn’t know what to do. At least that’s what I told myself when I didn’t say something after I saw people being harassed online or I got “that feeling” something was not right at an event. I know part of it was self-protection. I didn’t want them to get mad at me. In part, my own trauma and experience with sexual assault. I told myself I was over reacting. The final ingredient of silence? My ego. I was scared of bad attention focused on me. What if this “influencer” told everyone I sucked at my job? What if they tried to influence people not to do business with me? They knew everyone, or so I thought.
When you know something feels off, you have “that feeling.” You just know. That’s because if you are reading this, there’s a chance you yourself have experienced sexual harassment or assault. Nationwide, 81% of women and 43% of men reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment and/or assault in their lifetime.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a lesson about one person or one time at one event in one city. I’m writing about this today because it’s a story that keeps coming up at HR and recruiting events. Something I don’t want to see anyone experience again, especially as we go into spring event season for our industry.
After the last 5 years of working for myself and learning to find my voice, I know what to do because I know the truth. First of all, nobody knows everyone. One person will not make or break a career. OK, maybe Oprah, but she’s OPRAH and if you’re on her bad side, you’re wrong. I’m sorry. I digress. All that to say some conference speaker with a superhero complex ain’t it.
But here’s the truth I wish I had accepted sooner. You shouldn’t have to protect yourself from anyone, especially anyone you’d call a friend. No one should experience and accept bullshit human behavior out of guilt or worry of their influence. Not verbal harassment. Not sexual harassment. Not sexual assault.
That’s why I’m asking people with influence – that’s every single one of you reading this, by the way – to stand with me. I want to end this cycle. At that next big event, pay attention more. Speak up louder. Make sure people get home safe.
Let’s create safe places for people to speak their truth and consequences for those that use their influence for the wrong things. No more stages. No more platforms. We all can influence someone’s life, not just this industry we work in and that is bigger than blogs.
If you or someone you know has been assaulted at an industry event, here are some resources that might be helpful to you.
- Call a friend. Tell the organizer. You’re not alone and this doesn’t have to be a shameful secret.
- National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline – a free, confidential service that provides support and resources to survivors of sexual assault. Call 1-800-656-4673.
- RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) – the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the US, offering 24/7 support via a live chat service and a phone hotline. Visit their website at rainn.org.
- MeToo – a movement founded to help survivors of sexual violence, providing resources, advocacy, and support to those affected by sexual harassment, assault, and abuse. Visit their website at metoomvmt.org.
- National Sexual Violence Resource Center – a comprehensive online resource center that provides research, statistics, and information on sexual violence prevention and response. Visit their website at nsvrc.org.
Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.
Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.
Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.