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'You have to deal with that the rest of your life'

Zoe Greszler • Nov 29, 2017 at 12:00 PM

#MeToo.

The hashtag gained plenty of attention recently, used when someone is a surviving victim of sexual harassment, even if they had kept silent about the abuse. While the initial hype may have died down a little, the sexual harassment and rape allegations keep coming. 

The issue extends past Hollywood and Washington though. According to research done by Cosmopolitan 1 in 3 U.S. women have been sexually harassed, but 71 percent said they never reported it.

The U.S. Census reports Huron County as having roughly 29,629 “female persons” in 2016. If the Cosmopolitan statistic held true for the county, that would mean about 9,778 women have been sexually harassed.

Many though don’t know what might be filed as harassment. 

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.”

Locally, though that could raise questions. How does someone, man or woman, report sexual harassment or abuse? If it happens in the workplace, there’s protocol you should follow.

“First thing, you need to inform the person you don’t appreciate it,” Huron County Sheriff Todd Corbin said.

Corbin said if the issue persists, the next steps would be to let a supervisor know of your discomfort and file a report. 

“If it continues to escalate, then it falls within disciplinary action,” he said. 

The sheriff said for 2017, the department has handled three rapes and an unlawful sexual misconduct with a minor, where the age of consent is 16.

“I would say we only have a few cases a year,” Corbin said when asked how many reports of a sexual harassment they have on average.

“But a lot of that is lack of reporting,” the sheriff added.

“I don’t know if it’s embarrassment or I guess they don’t want that stigma (of being sexually harassed) and they don’t want to ruin a reputation. Everything I’ve heard throughout my career is they don’t report it because it’s always the shame that goes along with it and people making that snap judgement of them.” 

Corbin said victims should take the incidents seriously though, considering they could escalate from a toxic work environment to criminal activity, such as rape. He said victims also can help prevent others from experiencing the same thing.

“You should report it if you want it to stop and you don’t want another person to be a victim,” he said. “I’m always scared to death with my own daughter. I would never want her to be a victim of rape, it’s something you see in this job and the victims are scarred the rest of their life.

“You have to deal with that the rest of your life and you never want anyone to go though that. It can be years and years of counseling and it effects every aspect of life?” 

If someone is a victim of sexual harassment, be it in the workplace or otherwise, and is afraid of reporting it, Corbin said he recommends confiding in a friend, using that person to come forward.

Above all, the sheriff said employers, supervisors and others should avoid dismissing or retaliating against a reporter of sexual harassment, adding it’s against the law.

“Remember, they’re a victim of a crime. You don’t want to make it worse when they already feel ostracized and outcast.”

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