What support is there at VUMC if I am sexually harassed or know it’s happening?
SHARE is part of VUMC’s larger efforts to foster an inclusive and equitable culture of mutual respectApril 17, 2023
Heather Kamper, LCSW, is SHARE Center Coordinator, a clinical counselor in Work/Life Connections-EAP and part of Faculty and Staff Health and Wellness
- I went into the patient’s room to discuss her symptoms, and her family would not stop talking about my body and laughing. I felt so humiliated.
- I bent down to put on the blood pressure cuff, and he touched my chest. Even though he has a TBI, I still feel violated.
- It was my first day in the department, and my co-workers kept commenting on how fit I was. It was like my expertise, training and excitement about this new position didn’t matter at all.
- I saw a post-it note in the breakroom that said, ‘man or woman – there is no in-between.’
Although the statements above are fictional, the reality of sexual harassment and its impact is not. The SHARE Center (Sexual Harassment: Awareness, Response and Education) was launched in 2020 to provide a confidential place for VUMC faculty, staff and Allied Health professionals to discuss experiences of workplace sexual harassment, build skills, and learn ways to connect to additional resources to support their needs.
SHARE is part of VUMC’s larger efforts to foster an inclusive and equitable culture of mutual respect. We want all employees to feel supported and empowered to identify, disrupt and prevent workplace sexual harassment.
The SHARE Center raises awareness by providing presentations focused on sexual or gender-based harassment and discrimination, and I also participate in several committees focused on workplace violence prevention.
Our efforts continue to raise awareness about sexual harassment as a form of workplace violence – regardless of the relationship between target and harasser. We refocused our efforts in addressing sexual harassment in the context of the MeToo movement and the patterns of behavior changes that hospitals have seen across the country in which our clinicians and staff have been targeted by patients and their visitors.
Responding to Incidents
Research (National Academies of Sciences, 2018) shows that when people are sexually harassed, their least common response is to formally report the experience. The SHARE Center responds to incidents of sexual harassment by offering a safe, confidential resource for employees to process their experiences and the impact that they’ve had.
“When we speak up for ourselves, we not only get the help we need, we destigmatize this issue and help everyone at VUMC get the help they need,” said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer of VUMC and Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, at a 2021 Leadership Assembly.
Help is available at SHARE whether you believe the behavior was intended to be harassment or not. Just like you would get care for an accidental needle stick that happened while caring for a patient, it’s vital to get support for any experience of harassment or abuse that leads to strong emotions – even if you think the person wasn’t necessarily trying to cause harm.
Sexual harassment can take many forms in an academic medical center, and the SHARE Center knows that any form it takes can trigger strong reactions and feelings and be difficult to talk about. Recognizing this, SHARE provides counseling to anyone who has experienced or witnessed sexual harassment – whether caused by another employee, a patient, a patient’s family member, a contractor, or a visitor.
Education and Workplace Consultations
The SHARE Center’s education and workplace consultations empower VUMC leaders who want to intervene in unhealthy or unprofessional behaviors but are unsure how to do so while managing workgroup dynamics.
Through our SHARE Center educational offerings, we are creating opportunities to increase the skills of our employees to intervene in sexual harassment and support the well-being of colleagues here at the Medical Center. After attending an educational workshop put on by the SHARE Center, I want VUMC employees to feel more encouraged by our discussion on the dynamics involved in sexual harassment.
We can have more honest conversations with each other about the impact that our actions have on one another. These conversations can help ensure that people who are harmed receive the support they need. Participants can take practical, new skills back to their labs, workgroups, teams, departments, units, and more effectively intervene if they see harassment in any form.
The SHARE Center was created to be exempt from any mandatory reporting requirement and can work with employees who have reported the harassment, those who do not intend to do so, and those who are unsure and want to speak about their experience.
To learn more about the SHARE Center, go to https://www.vumc.org/health-wellness/share-center. To ask questions, schedule a virtual or in-person session, or to arrange an awareness presentation or educational workshop, contact Kamper at email@example.com or 615-936-1327.