Often times we tend to ignore reports of seafarers who are sexually abused because we get so caught up in working and managing our personal lives. These victims are left scarred and furious whenever their complaints go unnoticed or not much attention is given towards it. What would you do if you have exhausted your first channel of communication after reporting that you have been or is currently being abused? Firstly, sexual abuse is abusive sexual behaviour by one person upon another. It is often perpetrated using force or by taking advantage of another. One might think that only female seafarers are victims of sexual abuse but the sad truth is that men experience the same kind of trauma. However, this should NOT be tolerated and should be reported to someone in a more superior position than the first person it was reported to, if the matter was not addressed. In fact, there are laws that sanction perpetrators of sexual abuse. Here is how you handle sexual abuse as a seafarer, or anyone for that matter.
Safety4Sea posited that- “In case of a sexual harassment incident on-board, the seafarer can inform the Master or Chief Engineer or/and a helpline for support and advice. Given that the abusers may be the Master of Chief Engineer, there has to be an independent person who can be approached, for example the company personnel officer. Also, it is important to ensure that companies have a clearly written policy statement on the elimination of harassment including contact information to enable seafarers to report any related incidents”.
Your mental health is important, and should be protected and intact at all times. With that said, you need to ensure that you seek professional counselling. The onus is on the victim to choose who the prefer to get counselling from; whether it be counselling provided by an organization or institution or paid counselling, get it.
Here are nine steps from Saftey4Sea on how to respond to sexual harassment:
- In case of complain, respond immediately
- Involve outside legal counsel experienced in handling such claims
- Listen attentively to allegations of harassment and treat the victim with respect
- Investigate the complaint
- Let the circumstances guide your judgment
- Promote consistent treatment
- Keep complete and accurate documentation
- Keep the senior management fully informed
- Adopt a “no dating at work” policy
Companies should reevaluate their insurance, sexual harassment policy, general harassment policy and complaint procedures to fit the company’s needs. It is unfortunate that sexual harassment/ abuse is still prevalent in the workplace today. The sad truth is it happens constantly, but rarely gets reported because employees fear losing their job depending on who the abuser is. Victims of sexual abuse are often times thinking about a million and one things on the job, thus they are unable to work up to par, and in turn decrease production. Moral is, not only the victim is impacted, the organization is too. We implore victim of sexual abuse or harassment to speak up and take a stance – there is help for you; the law protects you.