ONE STUDY FOUND THAT INSTITUTIONAL
BETRAYAL EXACERBATES SYMPTOMS ASSOCIATED
WITH SEXUAL TRAUMA, SUCH AS ANXIETY,
DISSOCIATION AND SEXUAL PROBLEMS.
are the secret to
What can we do to prevent and address institutional betrayal?
The antidote is something my colleagues and I call “institutional
The details of institutional courage depend to some extent on
the type of institution involved, but there are 10 general principles
that can apply across most institutions:
1. Comply with criminal laws and civil rights codes.
Go beyond mere compliance. Avoid a check-box approach by
stretching beyond minimal standards of compliance and reach
for excellence in non-violence and equity.
2. Respond sensitively to victim disclosures.
Avoid cruel responses that blame and attack the victim.
Even well-meaning responses can be harmful, for instance,
taking control away from the victim or by minimizing the
harm. Better listening skills can also help institutions
3. Bear witness, be accountable and apologize.
Create ways for individuals to discuss what happened to them.
This includes being accountable for mistakes and apologizing
4. Cherish the whistleblower.
Those who raise uncomfortable truths are potentially the best
friends of an institution. Once people in power have been
notified about a problem, they can take steps to correct it.
Encourage whistleblowing through incentives like awards and
5. Engage in a self-study.
Institutions should make a regular practice of asking
themselves if they are promoting institutional betrayal. Focus
groups and committees charged with regular monitoring can
make all the difference.
6. Conduct anonymous surveys.
Well-done anonymous surveys are a powerful tool for disrupt-ing
institutional betrayal. Employ experts in sexual violence
measurement, use the best techniques to get meaningful
data, provide a summary of the results and talk openly about
the findings. This will inspire trust and repair.
We developed a tool called the Institutional Betrayal
Questionnaire. First published in 2013, the questionnaire
probes a company’s employer-employee work environment to
assess vulnerability to potential problems, the ease or difficul-ty
of reporting such issues and how complaints are processed
7. Make sure leadership is educated about research
on sexual violence and related trauma.
Teach about concepts and research on sexual violence and
institutional betrayal. Use the research to create policies that
prevent further harm to victims of harassment and assault.
8. Be transparent about data and policy.
Sexual violence thrives in secrecy. While privacy for individuals
must be respected, aggregate data, policies and processes
should be open to public input and scrutiny.
9. Use the power of your company to
address the societal problem.
For instance, if you’re at a research or educational institution,
then produce and disseminate knowledge about sexual
violence. If you are in the entertainment industry, make
documentaries and films. Find a way to use your product to
help end sexual violence.
10. Commit resources to steps one through nine.
Good intentions are a good starting place, but staff, money
and time need to be dedicated to make this happen. As Joe
Biden once said, “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your
budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” n
Jennifer Freyd is a Professor of Psychology at the University of
Oregon. Attend her presentation, “Addressing Sexual Harassment
with Institutional Courage,” Jan. 31 at 3 p.m. This article
originally appeared on theconversation.com and is reprinted here
fmarsicano / 123RF
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