When I first read the accounts of women who had been harassed in journalism, I had spent a week reliving the memories I never wanted to make as a sexual assault victim. I’d had some eerie encounters as a female journalist with men in the industry, and now in written proof in front of me, it was clear that I wasn’t alone.
That’s why when Emily Reynolds reached out to me to see if I wanted to be part of a group campaigning to tackle the grave problem with harassment in our industry, it was clear that joining up was a no-brainer if we ever wanted to eradicate the issue for good.
Led by Ros Urwin and Emily, Stephanie Boland and I joined the fledgling team to create The Second Source, a group created by women journalists to tackle harassment in the media. Since those initial days, our organisation has now grown to contain 40 spellbinding women journalists. These women, from print, digital and broadcast journalism, are trailblazers in our industry. They are so determined to tackle this problem that they have committed an inordinate amount time and effort to ensure that women in the media know that they no longer have to suffer in silence.
They have committed that time because that is how desperate the problem has become. Regardless of whether it’s their first year as a full-time journalist, or during the decades these friends and colleagues have worked in the industry, we all have one thing in common besides our gender – we all have been, or know someone who has been, a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace.
The stories that we’ve heard during our time organising have been nothing short of devastating. Whether it was the 22-year-old trainee who was led into a hotel room by a 50-year-old editor who said that she needed to strip for a magazine cover on erotic fiction, or the manager who sacked a freelancer because he “couldn’t deal with his temptation”, these incidents feature in every newsroom in the UK – but they’re the one story that isn’t being reported. We are all painfully aware that the nature of abuse sees it flourish in dynamics that exploit an imbalance of power.
As statistics have shown, at least half of the women in the UK have been sexually harassed at work. Although it shouldn’t have to be spelt out, the repercussions are clear, and they’re devastating: these unwanted, corrosive decisions deeply affect women. What may be considered a move of temporary, sickening indulgence by a colleague has the ability to change a woman’s life. I’ve been there. And it’s for that reason that we created a movement that will change other women’s lives for the better.
Through The Second Source, we want to provide a network that supports and advocates for women in the media who have experienced sexual assault. We want to scrutinise harassment policy in the workplace, and look at how we can successfully implement robust, supportive measures within organisations, boasting policies that are of such a high standard that everyone is made accountable for their actions.
But this group isn’t just about tackling sexual assault alone, for being a woman in a male-dominated industry sees other rampant inequalities affect a woman’s ability to reach her potential. These cases don’t affect the odd individual – they’re systemic. And we know that this problem is only heightened for women of colour, queer women, women with a disability or for trans women. For any woman who needs support in the industry, we are here to provide a service. For women who want to advance in their career but don’t know where to seek the right advice, The Second Source will provide an alternate networking solution, boasting a roster of successful female journalists who can offer a breadth of experience across all areas of the media.
As one of our co-founders, Julia MacFarlane said, journalism has always been about exposing issues. This is no different. And it’s time to provide a solution to a problem that has existed since our industry began.
Supported by forty MPs and journalists across the industry, we are here to change the way industries tackle harassment, for good. No matter what role you take, or where you come from in the media, The Second Source is here to help.
Harassment has devastated our industry for far too long. It’s not right – and it never was – and we are doing something about it.
For more information go to thesecondsource.co.uk
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