silence kills her: ending the acceptance of sexual harassment in the workplace

Rylinda Rhodes is a 2018 Wayfinder Fellow in Washington D.C. Her activism focuses on fighting against the acceptance of sexual harassment in the workplace and various other women’s issues.

Silence kills her, this is what I want people to know. After 9/11 the slogan See Something Say Something was played on airport, train, and bus stations PA systems around the country. Any means necessary to thwart future bombings and attacks against our country.

This same vigor should be used to stifle sexual harassment, which is the gateway to sexual abuse and violence against women in our everyday lives, including but not limited to our workplaces.

Got Milk?” he says to my coworker who recently returned from maternity leave. “Do fries come with that shake,” I’m asked as I walk to my cubicle. The loudness of the grunts and laughter is deafening, but the silence of the reprimand is heard even louder.

Silence kills her.

The silence created a work environment of tolerance for crude, lewd behavior on the call center floor. Comcast, you cannot preach that you have zero tolerance for sexual harassment while denying that it exists.

I started using my voice to kill the silence. My voice fell on deaf ears. I was labeled as the complainer. How dare I say “don’t speak to me in that manner.” No, I won’t shut the F**K up. When I was harassed, I reported it. My verbal abuser was reprimanded, I was told. And yet, he was rewarded for his bad behavior with unlimited overtime, at his discretion, as he bluntly informed me “My supervisor felt bad for having to write me up.” My humanity died a little at that moment. Why is my abuser valued and I am not? Ultimately, my advocating for a workplace free of sexual harassment lead to my termination. I sat silent for days, realizing it was killing my soul.

Silence kills her

Silence Killer: Thus began my journey to kill the silence of tolerance for sexual harassment.

Fall 2017, shortly after Harvey Weinstein victims were heard across the country and the #MeToo Movement took off, I launched a campaign on Coworker.Org to fight sexual harassment at my now former employer Comcast Communications. I began receiving messages immediately from current and former Comcast employees hailing #MeToo. I connected with some of these women from all over the country and created a leadership and support group. We discussed what happened to us in the workplace, shared our coping strategies, and what we had done and can do to bring awareness to this awful plight.

I learned of a grant opportunity for women such as myself through The Wayfinder Foundation. They were seeking minority women who are motivated and taking actions in their communities to make positive change on this planet. I leaped at this opportunity to connect with an organization that believes in activism, and that invests in women who are on the ground fighting for equality for all.

The moment I learned that I had won the grant and was offered the fellowship, I knew that nothing could stop me from creating the change I want to see in this world. The process confirmed what I already believed to be true about myself, that I can make a difference. Having the complete support of a team that believes in you is extremely powerful. I was one woman on an island, using the tools I learned through advocating for my family and friends to assist others in need. Sharing my time and resources to empower others. I no longer have the fear of where will I get the finances to host a chat, to facilitate a group on documentation, or how to navigate my process of activism.

I’m killing the silence.

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