Our world is a drastically different one now, in August of 2021 than just two years ago. Looking back, it may at times feel like we were taken to Oz with Dorothy and Toto in March of 2020 when tornadoes blew through Middle Tennessee and devastated so many lives. Within just a few days, the coronavirus arrived, and a "Safer at Home" order was issued. As time passed, the conflict of a divided nation became evident, with the pleads to "trust the science" and the calls for racial and social justice meeting with backlash and political conflict the likes we have not seen in our lifetimes. Social change is happening in bigger ways than in decades, bringing both conflict, discovery, and celebration, as well as calls for further change.
The SHARE (Sexual Harassment: Awareness, Response and Education) Center at VUMC finds some foundation for its presence from the #MeToo and #ScienceToo movements and their blooming influence that became a national force in 2017 (but began in many forms decades before). VUMC's executive leadership understands the weight of a glass ceiling and the limitations stemming from gender-based oppression that many continue to face in the workplace. While it may be easier to think in terms of gender inequity when we think about sexual harassment, the SHARE Center understands the additional risk for sexual harassment when an individual identifies as a member of any marginalized group. To help address this risk and balance the power, there are now seven Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) in various stages of development at VUMC whose purpose is to ensure that barriers to employment (including isolation and oppression) are removed, and the unique cultures represented are seen, celebrated, valued, and consulted for guidance in next steps for a 26,000-employee strong Medical Center. We are more connected. We are starting to know one another in deeper and fuller ways and working toward a more Technicolor VUMC, but our efforts must continue. The unifying chants from the ERGs and their respective movements to 'Say His Name', "Nothing About Us Without Us", a bold flag of rainbow colors calling for Pride to replace shame, the familiar cultures and stories of Huerta and Chavez, and the camaraderie, support, and collaboration of US veterans facing re-entry have all shifted our thinking. This has been done consciously and through slower, more implicit change as well. Let us not forget that during a period of violent hate crimes committed against the Asian American/Pacific Islander community, the now familiar hashtag #StopAAPIHate has brought our attention and focus to supporting our colleagues and the VUMC AAPI ERG in their time of collective trauma. The SHARE Center stands in solidarity with each ERG as we recognize the increased risk of sexual harassment, prioritize the importance of a healthy bystander response, and create a safe space for people to come forward and discuss experiences of harassment confidentially.
This is a dynamic period, ever-changing, and these past few years have been difficult and confusing at times as we face ongoing political and ideological splitting within our communities, states, and nation that make significant changes to the rights afforded people who identify as members of marginalized communities. This is perfectly reflected as we look with joy at the people once again gathering safely on the Plaza outside Light Hall and find that the giant blue stickers on the paving stones are still directing people to get vaccinated to protect from a worldwide pandemic. As odd as the changes may seem at times, they certainly remind us of Dorothy's grandiose journey on her own Brick Road. She found home – we can create home together.
In a series of upcoming articles, VUMC's SHARE Center will begin to celebrate and educate on the progression of social change for many of our VUMC community members who know the experience of invisibility and silencing. As we explore this new full-color world together, we'll learn why words are important, how we can change within ourselves and the connection that these all have to ending sexual harassment at VUMC. Come along for the journey, no bike or red shoes needed. We'll meet you back here in a few weeks!
About the SHARE Center: The SHARE (Sexual Harassment: Awareness, Response and Education) Center offers confidential counseling and consultation to VUMC faculty, staff, and Allied Health students who have experienced or witnessed workplace sexual harassment. The SHARE Center staff are exempt from mandated reporting of sexual harassment and all appointments are kept confidential to the extent permitted by law. We also provide education and programming about sexual harassment to the broader VUMC community in order to increase knowledge and awareness and to promote equitable relationships among colleagues. To make an appointment, you can call 615-936-1327 and request Heather Kamper, LCSW or another SHARE counselor. Follow the SHARE Center on social media through @WellVanderbilt on Twitter and Instagram. Visit the SHARE Center website.