I’ve always considered myself lucky that nearly all of the sexual harassment I’ve suffered while working as a journalist has come from outside the industry.
In fact, as a business journalist for six years, it has come almost exclusively from businessmen. But these were people who I could choose to cut ties with, even if it sometimes meant sacrificing a story.
I don’t want to open old wounds or make specific allegations, but to put it into context, everything I’ve experienced has been what might be considered ‘low key’ – the ‘friendly’ but unwanted arm around the waist at a Christmas party, professional conversations being hijacked and diverted to conversations about sex, comments from senior management about “sexy” staff, the ‘jokey’ repeated thrusting of a crotch when hugging a former colleague goodbye at a leaving party. These are far from unusual experiences.
I’m starting to realise that what I’ve considered to be luck was often simply knowledge.
For years, women who have experienced sexual harassment have been warning me and others of wandering hands and wayward words. I know by reputation so many men I’ve never met and, with every revelation, I’m thankful for the women who bravely shared their experiences and who ensured that the same didn’t happen to me.
However, I didn’t enter journalism with this network of women in place, and though our industry does have a huge problem with hiring lots of people who know each other, most new entrants start out in a similar position.
Many of the women who have shared their stories with me and others encountered their harassers when they were new to the industry and had no means of support or warning.
They had professional meetings that were followed up with late-night lewd messages. There might be a hand on the knee or the waist or the thigh at an industry awards. Then there’d be the mention of a crude nickname.
These harassers did it to the women who came before us and they did it to us. And they’re still doing it to the young people entering our industry right now.
That’s why I became part of a diverse group of women journalists who had set up an organisation to help prevent harassment and offer support to victims.
Last night we launched The Second Source, a set of resources praised by MPs across the political spectrum, including Sadiq Khan, Nicola Sturgeon and Caroline Lucas.
Our aim is to promote awareness, inform people of their rights, and work with companies to create change.
We’ll be doing that by creating a network of women in the industry, by helping victims understand their rights and seek help for trauma, and by consulting with media companies on their sexual harassment policies and workplace standards.
I’m the founder of a media company, and I understand that the pressure of the news environment combined with running a business can make it difficult to keep staff welfare as a top priority. However, setting up and disseminating a sexual harassment policy is both easy and important.
By empowering everyone to make a stand against sexual harassment, we diminish the power of individual harassers, and we show victims that they’re not alone in this industry.
Robyn Vinter is founder and editor-in-chief of The Overtake, a news website for millennials which launched in October. She is a member of The Second Source.