GRV: The Sound of Silence - Giving Voice to Workplace Sexual Misconduct

09 April 2024

Grv Digital Assets March 2024 Blogimage

Go Rural Virtually (GRV) is an online forum for health students, from all disciplines and year levels, to come together and learn about the day-to-day realities of practicing and living in remote and rural locations, as well as topical workplace issues.

On the evening of March 26, we hosted our first GRV event for 2024, this time delving into the challenging topic of intercollegiate workplace sexual misconduct including its lack of visibility, alongside the silence surrounding occurrences of sexual harassment in health settings and accompanying uncertainty regarding reporting options.

To guide the student listeners through this complex landscape the three GRV guest speakers whose combined voices have dared to disturb the sound of silence shared their academic findings, knowledge and personal experience.

Our first guest speaker, Dr Louise Stone, GP, initiated the conversation by giving the students an overview of the various forms of sexual harassment and its prevalence in health workplaces. After sharing a hypothetical case study, Dr Stephanie Pommerel, GP, talked us through the fight, flight or freeze response to better understand the reasons why people are less likely to report or speak out.

Researcher Victoria Lister discussed how silence becomes ingrained in a workplace culture, often beginning with individuals who either choose not to speak up or feel pressured to remain silent after an incident. The numerous factors that contribute to silence were discussed including the fear survivors have of jeopardising their career advancement, fear of the reputational damage and survivor shame.

Conversely, our speakers also spoke about the three main reasons why people choose to speak up as being justice, healing and protection of others.

Stephanie highlighted the power of collective voices as a way of strengthening the ability of individuals to confront and address workplace issues whether they relate to sexual misconduct or other forms of workplace abuse.

The speakers also recommended that the students find someone safe to discuss any feelings of discomfort they experience in the workplace, as well as making it clear that being a sexual harassment survivor is not a private shame that health workers need to carry by themselves.

Health Workforce Queensland hopes that the insights shared will encourage students to see the value of speaking out for themselves and their colleagues in the future.

If you missed the event, you can watch the recording below.

Testimonial from one of our listeners:My initial plan was to do some work while listening, but the conversation was so engaging that it commanded my full attention!