Whether we're talking about physical or sexual abuse, many of us have watched the details of several high profile cases unfold in the media. In offices across the country, team members may huddle for the mid-morning "water-cooler" conversation and begin discussing the sensationailized details of the various cases. While many may feel empathy for the victims, there may also be feelings of despair for a system that seems permissive and/or complicit toward physical and sexual abuse against women. Where are the gate keepers?
For me, this issue of complicity within the workplace is extremely personal and painfully real. I know firsthand how the physical abuse narrative is dominated by the perpetrator and in my case, zero consideration for the voice of the victim.
In spite of the organization's policy of no criminal convictions within three years prior to an employment offer, they decided to make an exception to the policy. The organization extended the opportunity to write a letter explaining the 2.5 year old domestic abuse related criminal conviction that came up during the candidate's background study. Perhaps a candidate's expertise, if valuable enough, can allow others to turn a blind-eye toward wrong doing and in turn create an environment of complicity.
The official Letter of Explanation was filled with statements such as: "I slammed the door and this action frightened her" and "I sent her an email where I referred to her actions as immature, which was insulting so she called the local police department". Those words, the explanation, the blame-shifting and truth-distorting letter proved to be the golden ticket, providing just enough information to validate and amplify the perpetrator's narrative of behavior justification while simultaneously silencing the voice of the victim. Empowered with that letter, the organization with a mandate to keep children and families safe, offered and filled their executive level position. Where are the gate keepers?
That incident happened many years ago, but the scars still remain. You see, I learned that day, that to many, my voice will not matter. I learned that day there is profit and gain for others every time a victim is silenced. I learned that day that regardless of the mission, values or purpose, some things are negotiable if the payoff is right.
In spite of those lessons learned that day, I also made a decision. I decided that I would be the change that I wanted to see. I decided that I would create a platform, advocating for awareness-raising conversations from the survivor's perspective. I learned that day that each of us are responsible for creating a zero-tolerance environment that eliminates victim blaming and shaming. Each one of us are gate keepers and it is our job to hold others accountable.
You see, we are much more than a cookie company bearing a founder's name. Junita's Jar is a company on a mission to shift the narrative from the voice of the perpetrator to the voice of the change makers...and together, we can change the stats!
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