General News · 22nd October 2017
I am so sorry that young women have to experience sexual harassment here. But not completely surprised. A lot of what feels like harassment to women feels like culturally acceptable behavior to some men. This needs to change.
For those who aren’t clear what sexual harassment looks like, the following information is from the Vancouver Rape Relief center website. Sexual harassment includes:
• suggestive comments,
• pressure for sexual contact, or
• demands for sex in return for a job or other benefit. It can involve
• unwanted touching
• sexual jokes and sexist remarks
Sexual harassment is about power, not sex.
When men use their power to treat women sexually in a non-sexual context, they interfere with women's right to work, to learn, to walk on the street without fear, and to be treated as equal and respected participants in public life. Like other kinds of woman abuse, sexual harassment both reflects and reinforces women's unequal position in our society.
Many women feel degraded and humiliated by sexual harassment. Some women feel confused. They question their own feelings and reactions, before they realize that the harasser is responsible for the problem. They are angry, anxious, and, if the harassment persists, may become depressed and demoralized.
The emotional strain can cause physical illnesses such as nausea, headaches, and fatigue. It can affect a woman's personal life, and the quality of her work. She may be fired, or forced to leave her job or school program (or island!) to avoid the harasser. Loss of self-confidence, health problems, unfair evaluations, poor references, and a disrupted work record can have a long-term economic impact, such as not being able to find another job.
Women and girls, it's not your fault. The harasser is responsible for his own behaviour.
Advice from the Vancouver Rape Relief website:
• The harassment most likely won't stop if you ignore it; it may actually get worse.
• Protect yourself by keeping a detailed written record of every incident.
• Ask the harasser to stop - in person or in writing. Take someone with you as a witness and for support.
• Find friends or colleagues who will support you. Other women probably have been harassed by the same man.
• Call this number to talk to other women who understand your situation. They can help you with ideas and strategies. (604) 872-8212
It’s not so easy to “Just report it.” Often, women who report harassment are not believed, are discredited, or are even blamed for the problem by their colleagues or community. As well, the harasser may retaliate. Legal action is slow, stressful, and expensive; and awards are usually small. Publicity surrounding a complaint may hurt a woman's job prospects and personal life. Few women can afford to take these risks.
I’d like to add to the Vancouver Rape Center materials above that long stares and personal comments (smile, honey! Or comments about clothes or body) create an uncomfortable environment for women, especially when the woman is in a position where it is part of her job to be polite and in a particular place (for example, restaurant work). An age gap can increase the perception of power imbalance/threat.
Our desire for no police here gives the community a responsibility to protect those who feel vulnerable. I’d like to support the women and girls who want to confront a man who is making her uncomfortable. I can be present there. I hope others will make their willingness known too.
Maybe now that Ashley, Bianca and Julia have called our attention to their frequent experience of sexual harassment and shared their knowledge of how it has caused women to leave the island, we will all be more aware.
Hopefully young women will keep written records of the incidents so there is an evidentiary basis to take action if need be. Hopefully they will speak to each other about the harassers and then to people in the larger community beyond their age group. Then we will be able to look out for them more effectively.
Hopefully the men involved will understand that their behaviour is unacceptable.
Hopefully the men and women of the community will be more vigilant in protecting women and girls from unwanted attention. Hopefully our educators are giving girls the tools they need to recognize sexual harassment and be assertive when faced with it. In public places this can be as simple as asking someone close by to be present while you state, “You are making me uncomfortable. Please stop.”
Thank you - Taking Action
Comment by Mercedes Grant on 13th November 2017
Much gratitude to Ashley for having the courage to initially address this issue, publicly, and to everyone who has contributed their stories. I am incredibly sorry to all of the women and those who identify as women, that have been survivors of sexual harassment on this island, and anywhere.
Days before this post appeared, I was hitchhiking across the island, when I found myself in a car with a man, where I was meant to feel very unsafe. Methods of intimidation, manipulation, aggression and violence were used to make sure that I knew who held the power in that dynamic. I now feel unsafe hitchhiking, and when I do, I am in a state of hyper-vigilance, which is stressful and draining.
My personal experiences are simply a mirror to the vast majority of women who deal with this abuse EVERY DAY. As a survivor of sexual assault, it has taken me years to be able to even properly identify what happened to me, never mind to speak publicly about my experiences, because women have been made to feel power-less, “crazy”, “dramatic”, “over-reactionary” and unsupported when they come forward, even and often especially by, the police and so-called justice system.
We must also do the uncomfortable work of identifying our own biases and complicities. I have been complicit, I have been afraid, I have not wanted to “ruffle feathers”. In the constant wake of a crumbling patriarchy and the battle cries of generations of sisters before us and all around us, I find myself unable to stay quiet any longer. We must all dive deep into our own darkness, into the space that makes us want to run and hide, to create space to have these difficult conversations – particularly on an isolated island where we have limited resources.
I am aiming to take action to begin a dialogue about these difficult issues; to begin to educate, train and empower each other to address and manage conflict of this nature on the island. I have reached out to women from many backgrounds, to provide names of facilitators, educators, counsellors and skilled-practitioners who manage conflict, with particular focus on oppression and patriarchy. I envision a number of accessible workshops/sessions where we come together to learn, cry, laugh, heal, empower.
This work is within my skill-set: facilitating workshops, organizing events, community engagement and fund-raising. If you have skills to contribute to this, please connect with me at mgbadassana,,,gmail.com. Please note that my personal capacity is currently limited, and I am dedicating energy to this at a pace that works for me. If you do not hear back from me right away, please be patient.
Thank you. I’m sorry. I believe you. You are not alone.
song by k.d. Lang
Comment by Peter Jackel on 26th October 2017
I hope that what we are seeking is healing, not blame or punishment. A song by k.d. Lang from one of her earliest albums "Absolute Touch and Twang" reinforces my belief in healing. "Nowhere to Stand" is a song that speaks for children, girls and boys, from the heart. "A family tradition ..... the back of a hand, turns girls into women, a boy to a man." The song makes it clear the back of a hand could come from either parent. "What's taught is what's known." But it is an uplifting song, for all that it is so imbued with grief, and despite it making my heart ache. It could be played whenever any gather to talk about this issue to set the tone for the discussion. Because we will only solve this problem with the heart. Those who have been scarred as children, "a young heart is broken", need our love, not another "back of the hand" of condemnation.
What he said . . .
Comment by monica on 26th October 2017
Mark Braaten expressed what I would want to add to this discussion. As a lesbian, my experience of sexual harassment has had a slightly different tone at times - a rather harsh one. Conversely, I have had the privilege of fostering very close friendships with men. One of the best parts of moving to Cortes was meeting so many kind and gentle humans, of all genders, orientations, and identities. Let's keep talking. None of us are free until all of us are free.
my experience in the world
Comment by Anne on 24th October 2017
Thanks Carrie and Ashley for bringing this issue into the light. I am self employed now but in my twenties I spent many years working as a waitress in bars and restaurants and a few more years traveling alone, and in that time I had much unwanted sexual attention from men ranging from the bizarre to the uncomfortable to the scary.
In my experience it was never easy to report the behaviour right away. When it happened at work I was usually quite busy and I did not feel able or comfortable stopping everything that I was doing to find a manager or call out the inappropriate behaviour. Also my first instinct was to quickly end contact with the harasser and remove myself from the situation. Hours later I always had the best retort worked out for what I should have said but it never came easy to me in the moment. Now that I am older and more confident I find myself more willing to engage with men who speak or act in a sexually inappropriate way.
So that being said, I would also like to offer my support to any women who would like talk about an incident or stand up to a harasser.
Cultural Evolution and Gender Balance
Comment by Mark Braaten on 23rd October 2017
Thanks Carrie and Ashley for raising our awareness and speaking out.
I feel very fortunate to live in such a healthy community. We have traveled around the world and visited many communities. This is among the best we have ever experienced.
Part of what makes this place so special is the people who come here with a wish to live a better life. Many are aware our long history of suffering and strive towards creating a more balanced and healthy society. We are in a unique position to set an example of positive here in our own community.
Yet we are all subject to the results of a centuries long, painful history of ignorance and imbalance. We all struggle to be free of our cultural conditioning. Nowhere has this been more hurtful than the imbalance between men and women. Humanitarian leaders the world over agree. Even here in this most privileged place, the sad legacy follows us.
I think it is important to support each other to step up to making conscious changes, not by blaming or accusing, but by supporting each other to grow out of the old hand me down and often unconscious habits that no longer serve us. We need to (each of us) find ways of living together with love and mutual respect.
I offer my support to any women or man who feels ready to work towards this goal right here at home with courage and compassion. I trust it must be possible to succeed at creating our own example of a healthy balanced society on this island, and that the ripple effect will be positive in the world.
Offer of Support
Comment by Dan Peters on 23rd October 2017
I'd like to thank Ashely and Carrie for their articles and all the other voices that have been involved in this discussion. I realize there is an element of risk involved in simply speaking out about this and I receive your words with gratitude, humility, and concern.
I'd like to offer my support, as a physical presence (or otherwise). My hope and trust is that there are other men on this island who are willing to take part in the larger dialogue that is unfolding and lend their support as well.
Comment by Patricia L on 23rd October 2017
I am surprised to see so many comments that suggest the abusers can be educated to stop it. We cannot control the actions of other people, we can only control what we do about it. I agree with Carrie that if a someone feels comments or actions are offensive, they need to say so at the time or walk away. Also, if so much abuse is taking place in an establishment where women are meeting the public, the manager is responsible for protecting employees. If someone is being abusive to you while you are doing your job, walk away from them and go get the manager. You can refuse to serve someone who is being abusive. If there is no one you can go to for protection, this is just plain wrong. No woman should be working alone at night or be needing to find a ride home. This again, is a management responsibility.
Sad but true, a woman alone in many circumstances is just not safe. This cannot be ignored. That being said, anyone working with the public is expected to be friendly to customers ... if someone says "smile" or comments on your clothes, they are just trying to connect with you in some way and I don't think this should be considered abuse. Serving the public is a difficult thing to do and not everyone enjoys it. Sadly, there are so few opportunities for work on an island, one is reluctant to give up a job. Public "friendliness" does not include being a target for unwanted behaviour.
do abused boys become abusive men?
Comment by ron lund on 23rd October 2017
over half the men in north america are circumcised. this is culturally acceptable sexual violence against a child. there is a lot of talk about abusive men but little talk of abusive women including mothers. feminist canadian senator anne cools who in 1974 founded one of the first shelters for abused women in Canada stated, "behind every abusive man is an abusive mother". i do not blame the mothers for often they are only passing on the chain of pain from husband to wife to child. but where did the man learn violence or lack of respect for women? is this natural? or trained? i think there is lots to think about in all this talk of abuse. i as an abused child who grew up to become an abusive husband (this is in my past with a previous wife and i have had some therapy and know i must take full responsibility for my actions and i am no longer abusive to my partners as i have learned the hardest way when i hurt others i hurt myself too). i have a voice in this discussion too. i was abused by violent sports in school which bled over into the locker room after so much so that boys took pleasure in kicking each other in the balls as early as elementary school. from getting the leather strap from supposedly well meaning teachers for not doing homework to getting beat by my mother for not vacuuming the house before she came home from work i learned violence was part of the world.
i honestly think to make the world better for women, we have to help make men better too. i have four daughters and married to a woman who i love. of course i want a safer world for them. my message is we need to see things more holistically and stop the attack on men. in my opinion we are creating each other. in closing i suggest readers do a internet search for "How Male Circumcision Harms Women"
in my opinion, this is not a matter of stopping violence against women, its about stopping all violence against everyone, children, women and men.
sexual harassment confusion
Comment by loyd fairweather on 23rd October 2017
I am a male of our species.
We males like to think we are smart and know
a lot of stuff.But when it comes to women we know very little.I personally rarely get compliments on my appearance and/or clothing but when I do I am quite tickled.This makes me think that women would be tickled too.
So am I missing something here or am I just
daft.In our defense if women were not so dam
gorgeous we would keep our mouth shut.
It seems to me that women actually try to look
like female Gods.How can we resist not wanting
to interact with you.Sure some of us are crude
and unrefined but we are guys.We can't help
I once said to another guy "What is in us men that women find attractive?"And his answer was he doesn't have a clue.I agree.
So sorry women we look like such idiots.
Men are taught abuse by other men
Comment by Yifan on 22nd October 2017
Ron: I appreciate your story and feel for you. While I agree with some sentiments you express, I think the facts suggest the root of the problem often lies with men and that your experience, though valid, represents the exception rather than the rule.
The truth is that a history of being abused is a strong risk factor for becoming an abuser. However, multiple studies have indicated that the majority of abused children do not grow up to become abusers themselves and the majority of abusers were not abused as children. I agree that better parenting practices will probably decrease abuse rates.
However, the problem is clearly very lopsided. Who created these abused boys who become abusive men? More often than not, other men have created them. The vast majority of abuse perpetrators are men. And while these abusive men often target men and boys, women are more frequently on the receiving end of the abuse. While female abusers do exist, male abusers outnumber them by 10 to 1. Girls suffer higher rates of abuse than boys, so why the dearth of adult female abusers?
This is not a battle of the sexes. This is patriarchy. We end the violence by making men better. We make men better by showing them that violence against women is never acceptable.
Thanks for your voice
Comment by Catriona Vega on 22nd October 2017
Thank-you Ron for speaking of your personal experience as a man. I agree we all have a responsibility in how we shape each other in our treatment of one another. As a mother, I definitely have moments where I do not handle situations well. I own up to these with my kids and seek better ways of dealing with the situation next time. I would guess most people have moments in their lives they are less than proud of. We need to provide avenues for boys and men to look at the culture of violence as well as the women so as not to vilify anyone and to provide an avenue for change for those who may want to seek help in changing their behaviour or the situation in which they find themselves...on either side of the abuse. Here's to the courage to work towards change!
I call bullshit on self-policing
Comment by Yifan on 22nd October 2017
When was the last time there was a local effort that provided any sort of effective protection for a woman here? I haven't seen a single example since I've lived here.
The belief that we do a good job taking care of our own is delusional. While the law enforcement system has many serious flaws, especially pertaining to male violence, it has still done more to protect women on Cortes than any local effort that I know of.
Thank you to Carrie for pointing out that living without police is a privilege. If we do not decide to take responsibility for male violence, then we do not deserve to live without a police presence.
Offer of support....
Comment by Lovena Harvey on 22nd October 2017
Thank you Carrie and Ashley for your articles. The content is so important, especially living here, where we have the unusual experience of being a 'microcosm of the whole'. We have the ability as a community to recognize this problem and do something to correct it, by standing together. What better place to do this work than a remote island where we are all connected socially and geographically? I believe educating the men who harass is the key. We are never too old to learn, adapt and change.
I would like to offer my support, with Carrie's, to any woman who would like to speak to a harasser or who needs support.