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My sexual harassment motion passes at Full Council

by Steff on 11 December, 2017

I’m pleased that the motion I proposed, and Dr Marie Strong seconded, was passed with welcome adjustments from Councillor colleagues.

That this Council considers that sexual harassment, bullying and intimidation are completely unacceptable and believes that it has no place in any workplace or society. Any councillor or member of staff who feels that they have been subjected to unwanted sexual advances should feel confident to raise their concerns without fear of intimidation or retaliation.

In light of this, the Managing Director is asked to report to the next meeting of the Council on the number of sexual harassment, bullying or intimidation allegations that have been made in the last year and what changes need to make to the Council’s procedures in light of those allegations.

My speech proposing it follows:

In awarding Person of the Year to several outspoken victims of sexual abuse, the Time magazine editor said:

“The women and men who have broken their silence span all races, all income classes, all occupations and virtually all corners of the globe. They might labor in California fields, or behind the front desk at New York City’s regal Plaza Hotel, or in the European Parliament.“

And, I would add, they might work at Norfolk County Council.

One of the people on the cover is only shown by their elbow and this is a subtle but powerful editorial decision. They represent the millions who suffer in silence and who cannot publicly come forward.

For these in particular – as for all victims of sexual abuse and harassment – fair process is the only remedy. Indeed as it is for anyone falsely accused. But to be fair, a process also has to be effective.

Now, it might sound strange to welcome an increase in reports of sexual harassment. But bear with me.

It’s clear lots of people from all walks of life have suffered and continue to suffer from sexual harassment.

It would be absurd to say that this organistion, with its 6,197 people, has not had and indeed continues to have, instances of it.

What do we do to solve this?

We set up policies
Processes and procedures
And raise awareness

But this motion is not about the need for policy, it’s about the need for reporting to make the collective accountability we all have over this organisation have some substance.

Because otherwise how do we know if it’s working?

At some point you have to look at the numbers.

That is, the number of claims.

Have they gone up?

If not, and given the fact we might reasonably assume that sexual harassment suffers from under reporting, whatever we have done differently lately has not worked.

Of course, at some point we might see a reduction in the number of claims as a mark of success. But plainly the circumstances are such for this issue that we would expect to see an increase as a mark of success of our policy.

But I am not calling for more policy but for the publication of the results.

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