The Headteacher in me.

by Christalla Jamil @ChristallaJ

Are you sometimes a headteacher out of work too? I certainly am. Sometimes my husband says, “You’re not at work now darling.” Or my children, who are both adults, chuckle and add, “Oh there she goes again, Mum thinks she is our headteacher!” Yet both these examples are paired with an element of humour. Today, I was hurt, emotional, angry, disappointed, frustrated, powerless and instantly went into headteacher mode. What would I do if this happened at work mode?

If to Freud all defence mechanisms exist to protect the personality from an intolerable attack of anxiety when the ego is under siege, it's strange that he never considered anger as serving this pivotal psychological function. But to regard an essential human emotion as mainly designed to safeguard an individual from another, much more distressful emotion, is hardly a line of reasoning Freud might have been expected to follow. Still, in my own experience, anger is almost never a primary emotion in that even when anger seems like an instantaneous, knee-jerk reaction to provocation, there's always some other feeling that gave rise to it. And this particular feeling is precisely what the anger has contrived to camouflage or control. What I am trying to say is I feel angry! Not in an egotistical manner but in a helpless manner because I want to protect and prevent!

Angry

My anger potently serves to invalidate whoever or whatever led me to feel invalidated. In adamantly disconfirming the legitimacy of the menacing external force, I self-righteously proclaim the superiority of my own viewpoint. This way my critical need for emotional/mental security is restored.

With that in mind I ask you, what if somebody shared an extremely distressing scenario with you but pleaded with you not to share it with anyone because of fear. Fear of humiliation perhaps? Fear of regret? Fear of the same thing happening again? Fear of being seen as a victim? Fear of revealing the perpetrator? What would you do? Do you remain silent? Do you allow the evil to prevail? NO. Every single time NO.

You honour your friend’s request yet simultaneously you allow it to be a platform to prevent horrendous acts happening again. You allow your anger to turn you into an activist! You allow your anger to protect all women from being in such scenarios ever again.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports receiving 12,000 allegations of sex-based harassment each year, with women accounting for about 83 percent of the complainants. That figure is believed to be just the tip of the iceberg. In a study issued last year, the co-chairwomen of a commission task force said that roughly three to four people experiencing such harassment never tell anyone in authority about it. Instead, they said women typically “avoid the harasser, deny or downplay the gravity of the situation, or attempt to ignore, forget, or endure the behaviour.”

It is indeed very common for victims to delay disclosing their trauma, if they ever do. So if courageous women share their trauma, I feel it is my duty as a human, as a woman, as a national leader of @WomenEdEngland, to state quite firmly THIS IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH. THIS IS NOT RIGHT. No MEANS NO. We will give rise to justice and protect the communities we serve.

Sexual harassment and behaviours that fall under this category include: inappropriate touching; invasion of privacy; sexual jokes; lewd or obscene comments or gestures; exposing body parts; showing graphic images; unwelcome sexual emails, text messages, or phone calls; sexual bribery, coercion, and overt requests for sex; sexual favouritism; being offered a benefit for a sexual favour; being denied a promotion or pay raise because you didn’t cooperate. And of course, some women experience what more aptly could be described as sexual assault. While I recognise that men are also sexually harassed and assaulted, I am going to focus on female victims of sexual harassment and assault in direct response. One of the fundamental reason’s women don’t come forward to report sexual harassment or assault is shame. Shame is at the core of the intense emotional wounding women and men experience when they are sexually violated. As expert on shame, Gershen Kaufman, aptly stated in his book Shame: The Power of Caring, “Shame is a natural reaction to being violated or abused. In fact, abuse, by its very nature, is humiliating and dehumanizing.” This is especially true with sexual violations. Shame is a feeling deep within us of being exposed and unworthy. When we feel ashamed, we want to hide.

Then there is denial. Many women refuse to believe that the treatment they endured was actually abusive. Self-blame could kick in and depression. Also, they can believe that allowing themselves to be vulnerable was their fault. That’s what predators do to women .

Let’s not forget fear, the fear of the repercussions coupled with low self -esteem. These are huge obstacles woman face when it comes to reporting sexual harassment or assault — fear of losing their job, fear they won’t find another job, fear they will be passed over for a promotion, fear of losing their credibility, fear of being branded a troublemaker, fear of their physical safety. I am here to tell you that we know how hard it is to be listened to as a victim. We know, always agree and believe the victim.

We stand together. We stand united in eliminating such behaviour. We will continue to amplify our voices to protect and safeguard you.

Safe Space

@TheSafeSpaceUK can also help. They take a stand against unsolicited communications. They offer support, advice and will listen. They are women, supporting women.

To find out more please read their blog.

 

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