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Gender Based Violence in the Workplace ‘Ordinary’: What You Should Know About Gender Based Violence in the Workplace

Author: Cassie Myers

Gender-based violence (GBV) is violence inflicted upon a person or group of people due to their gender identity, gender expression or perceived gender (octevaw-cocvff). People of all genders can experience gender-based violence, but most survivors are cisgender women, transgender women and men, and non-binary folks; these experiences are also compounded by racialized individuals and those living with disabilities. Gender-based violence is an umbrella term for abuse, assault or other forms of violence and can include physical, sexual, verbal, financial, social, environmental and religious abuse as well as harassment and stalking. 

In the workplace, GBV includes physical and/or emotional violence, harassment and bullying that is experienced within the workplace as well as any GBV that is experienced outside of the workplace, as that has the potential to impact a person’s daily life (Ending Violence). GBV not only impacts those directly targeted, but also the extended workplace community. Gender-based violence can reduce productivity, compromise safety, contribute to a negative culture, and make employers potentially liable for the harm caused (Ending Violence)

Plant with in pot with words written on the leaves. Words from top to bottom "homicide, sexual and physical assault, sexual and criminal harassment, threats, bullying, psychological and verbal abuse and discriminatory attitudes and beliefs"

Sometimes GBV is pigeonholed only in discussions of homicide, but GBV exists on a continuum. 

In the workplace, gender-based violence survives on discriminatory attitudes and beliefs like demeaning thoughts about women, trans people and non-binary people, as well as heteronormative expectations. These attitudes help create a workplace where gender-based harassment and bullying is tolerated. 

Stemming from these attitudes and beliefs are sexual harassment, criminal harassment, threats, bullying and psychological abuse, including jokes. 

When forms of psychological and verbal harassment are tolerated, it creates an environment where physical and sexual assault is normalized. 

For example, transphobic attitudes that support ideas that there is something “wrong” with transgender people, contribute to a workplace culture where harassment against transgender people is accepted and reports of sexual violence are not taken seriously. 

This continuum is not meant to quantify the impact of GBV. All forms of gender-based violence are harmful and can impact a survivor for a long time. This continuum illustrates how some forms of GBV lays the groundwork for others and illustrates the need for recognition of the most visible forms of GBV in addition to those under the surface. 

We included a list of some, but not all, forms of gender-based harassment and bullying that all team members should be aware of: 

  • Spreading rumours about a team member, particularly in reference to their gender. 
  • Excluding a team member from work-related activities or events on the basis of their gender
  • Joking about a team member’s gender. 
  • Saying demeaning comments about a team member’s gender. 
  • Misgendering or using an incorrect pronoun in reference to a team member. 
  • Using gendered reasons to explain the denial of a development opportunity

This list is meant to equip folks to identify harm. It is an employers responsibility to create and amplify a policy to report and heal from workplace discrimination and harassment. To learn more on how to do this, book a time with a Lunaria Associate.

Resources if you or someone you know is facing gender based violence.

Assaulted Women’s Helpline
Toll-free: 1-866-863-0511 (multilingual services available)
Toll-free TTY: 1-866-863-7868
or #SAFE (#7233) on your Bell, Rogers, Fido or Telus mobile phone

Fem’aide Helpline (French only)
Telephone: 1-877-336-2433 (services available in French only)
TTY: 1-866-860-7082Talk4Healing (Helpline for Indigenous Women)
Toll-free: 1-855-554-4325 (multilingual services available)

National Domestic Violence Hotline Call 1.800.799.SAFE (7233), Text “START” to 88788

Header and Feature Image by Stormseeker on Unsplash ❤️

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