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#BHUSA: Companies Encouraged to Adopt Sexual Harassment Policies

Speaking at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas on 'How can Communities Move Forward After Incidents of Sexual Harassment or Assault?', Makenzie Peterson, wellness program director at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, followed instances of sexual assault and asked how as a community can we address the issues.

At the first Black Hat after the emergence of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault, and after accusations against notable security researchers, Peterson said that sexual violence “is about power and control,” and looked at how best to respond.

“Offer unconditional support, listen to them, tell them you believe them, offer resources and realize that there are resources available in the community, and knowing what is available is really nice, as well as knowing there are people to talk to,” she said. “Also, don’t tell them what to do, and challenge the statements of self-blame.”

She recommended the “listen, validate, refer” method of listening to them and acknowledging that you’re here for them, and refer them to resources.

From a leadership perspective, Peterson said that there are ways that companies can be more progressive on this and she recommended adopting “a clear stance and make it very clear on your platforms” that everyone should know about what is and what is not OK.

She also recommended taking all complaints seriously, training and teaching community members at least twice a year about sexual harassment and what it is and what they can do about it.

Peterson concluded by calling for better prevention, education and accountability. “Sexual violence is not discriminatory, it is very much impacting everyone,” she said.

“Please think thoughtfully about community: always put the survivor at the center of your discussions as they are feeling something worse, and come up with something that people can read and understand and make it known and make it clear and very open, the more open you make the topic the much easier it is for a survivor to come forward in a male community.”

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