I think we’re all guilty of harassment

It was a few weeks ago that I commented about the whole sexual harassment trend that’s happening. And by trend I mean the number of people who say they were on the receiving end of harassment.

Often the accused offenders are celebrities or politicians – people who can be publicly shamed. Of course rarely does the bus driver or fast-food manager or someone in a low-profile position make national headlines if they have behaved badly.

After I wrote about it in this column, I also talked about it on the radio and it led to a bigger discussion.

“I bet you have sexually harassed someone at some point in your life,” someone said to me. I thought about it for a moment. My reaction was, “I guess I have. I think we all have.”

Growing up as teenagers, we all probably said something that was funny at the time. Perhaps our circle of friends thought the off-colour joke was hilarious but someone on the sidelines took offence to it. Boom. There’s a harassment claim.

It wasn’t intentional. It wasn’t meant to devastate someone – much less someone overhearing it. But in the end, it was funny to the people involved.

Or maybe you have a great joking relationship with a friend but make a comment when he or she is having a bad day and what would normally have been laughed at is suddenly considered offensive. Boom. There’s a harassment claim.

At the same time, it is very easy to say nowadays, “Hey, I’ve thought about it for 10 years and it kind of bothers me now – especially since I see how everyone is offended by everything lately.”

Is that the problem? Should there be a time limit? If I really think about it there was probably someone at some point when I was growing up that said something to offend or insult me. Should I spend hours thinking about it and track them down online to thrash them on their social media page?

Having thought about all of the different situations people are in – school, work, nightclub, wedding, vacation, etc. – I don’t believe there is anybody who can say, “I have never said anything that another person would have been offended by.” I really don’t think it is possible.

Am I justifying harassing people or downplaying the seriousness of the very public claims that have surfaced as of late? No, I’m not. What I am saying is we have all made a joke or said something that could be taken the wrong way despite our best intention. We’re all victims and we’re all guilty.

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