Vanderbilt University Medical Center has instituted a new program for employees to confidentially receive support around workplace sexual harassment. The direcctor, Dr. Lauren Datillo, informs the listener about the program and how to access the services.
Rosemary Cope: Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt Health and Wellness Wellcast. I am Rosemary Cope with Work/Life Connections. I'm here today with Dr. Lauren Dattilo, who coordinates the new SHARE Center at VUMC. Lauren is a graduate of the University of Georgia and the University of South Carolina, and prior to joining the staff of the Work/Life Connections Employee Assistance Program, Lauren was a postdoctoral fellow at the University Counseling Center at Vanderbilt. Workplace sexual harassment takes many different forms. It can come from a co-worker, a supervisor, a customer or a client, and it ranges from unwanted touching, inappropriate comments or jokes or someone promising you a promotion in exchange for sexual favors. Lauren, could you tell our listeners about how sexual harassment actually manifests in the workplace?
Dr. Lauren Dattilo: Often, when we think about sexual harassment, we have this idea that it's about gaining some sort of sexual gratification, when actually what we know about many forms of sexual harassment is that they are related to unequal power balances. So, it may start out that somebody's behavior toward someone is based in a desire for some sort of romantic or sexual relationship, and often when the other person doesn't show reciprocated interest, the continued behavior is then a way to assert power over the other individual or attempts to show some kind of dominance. So, there are many different types of situations in which this kind of behavior can manifest when there is a power imbalance. It may be a situation where a supervisor is making inappropriate comments toward someone that they supervise. This can also arise in instances where an individual is a member of a marginalized group, for example, if you are an LGBTQ individual, if you are a racial or ethnic minority, if you are the only woman in a leadership position in the place where you work. So, when we think about power, we want to think about it across lots of different domains, not just a supervisor and a supervisee. Sexual harassment can also take many different forms. So, Rosemary, you pointed out some of the ones that we tend to think about first and the ones that are most common, but when we think about sexual harassment within the work that we are doing at SHARE, it also includes things like gender exclusion and harassment based on gender identity or sexual orientation. So, for example, this can be things like inviting all of the male employees that you supervise out for an event after work but failing to include other individuals that you work with, who may be women or non-binary individuals. This is something that is actually fairly common, and what can happen is, there are things that can be advantageous to people's careers that happen outside the workplace, but if those advantages aren't extended to everybody, that creates a situation where you have gender exclusion. Situations can also arise, for example, where people feel entitled to ask really invasive, personal questions to LGBTQ people, in particular transgender people. These are typically questions that they would never ask straight or cisgender individuals that they work with. So, sexual harassment can take a lot of different forms, and when we think about it at SHARE, it's a pretty broad, encompassing term.
Rosemary Cope: We have mentioned this word before, "SHARE," SHARE Center. So, Vanderbilt has instituted something new called the SHARE Center. Lauren, can you tell us what that is, what is "SHARE," and how can employees make use of the services?
Dr. Lauren Dattilo: "SHARE" stands for sexual harassment, awareness, response and education, and the creation of the SHARE Center was really a response by leadership to folks talking about, and them understanding that sexual harassment is a problem in all workplaces and that VUMC is not excluded. So, we feel very lucky to be supported by a lot of folks at the top and that's really something that is important for creating the cultural change that needs to happen. So, the SHARE Center is located in the basement of the Medical Arts building and we offer a range of services including confidential, individual therapy and counseling for people who have been impacted by workplace sexual harassment. So, that means that you don't necessarily have to be the one that was harassed, because we know that witnessing workplace sexual harassment or working in a place where harassment exists often impacts lots of different individuals. So, we offer individual services like therapy and counseling. Those are confidential, which means that we don't make any sort of official report to HR and that accessing SHARE services is not contingent on making a report. We are also working on developing programming and education that will be available to folks in all positions at VUMC and for individual departments or areas who are interested in some sort of presentation or education around workplace sexual harassment. So, we are available Monday through Friday, from 8:00 to 5:00, and you can learn more information about SHARE at our website, which is vumc.org/health-wellness/share-center. You can also give us a call if you'd like to schedule an appointment or talk to somebody about SHARE at (615) 936-1327.
Rosemary Cope: This is such an important new development for the Medical Center, Lauren. Thank you for sharing with us today.