The above words are not original to me, and I don’t know who first used them, but I appreciate their rich message.  The Blues is a musical tradition that originated with Afro-Americans in which they put the pain of slavery , segregation, and Jim Crowism into a unique existential poetry that resonated their experiences.  The Blues is about the fear, anger, and shame associated with a way of being.  The Blues are also a perfect picture to me of what happens to those who have been victims of sexual harassment and assault.

The accepted definition of sexual harassment is an unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that occurs in the workplace, or academic or training center.  This definition casts a broad net and seeks to capture a form of human conduct that is highly exploitative and demeaning.  As such, it cannot began to elucidate the innumerable and creative ways in which people seek to subvert its intended and extraordinary meaning. 

Perpetrators are adept practitioners of the doleful art of sexual harassment.  They may be aware of the definition of sexual harassment, but their arrogance and cunning ways hide their abiding and chronic intent engaged in the sport of sexual harassment.  They will try any number of  tactics to win the intended victim’s confidence and trust.  The victim, however, may not realize that he or she is being ‘seasoned’ or ‘groomed’ into implicit agreement with the wiles of the perpetrator.  Perpetrators are brilliant shape-shifters.  They love the challenge of the game of seduction.  There is a chilling erotic thrill for them in manipulative seduction.  They love the power differential inherent in the ‘game.’  Please do not under estimate what I am saying to you. It could potentially be very costly monetraily and in terms of business reputation.

This is a deadly game, and the game involves seizing the life of a fellow human being for one’s pleasure.  This game is highly narcissitic.  The perpetrator may groom the intended victim with false friendship and little kindnesses designed to manipulate defenses and procure trust from the intended victim(s).  The person who finds that he or she has been ‘played’ by a perpetrator may get the “Blues.”  They may become angry and say to themselves “'how could I have been so stupid’ or ‘he or she seemed so nice.’"

The victim of sexual harassment will struggle with a number of emotional reactions when the intention of the game has been revealed.  When the attempt to touch your hand, or hug you, or kiss you, or there is an invitation to go out for a drink after work or some other event takes place that was completely unexpected by you, but was planned by the perpetrator you may then realize that you have been manipulated all along.  This awareness can and may produce the Blues.

Sexual harassment is associated with poorer psychological well-being, more physical problems, and lower satisfaction with health, work, difficulties finding work, alcohol and drug use.  Sexual assault is also associated with high lifetime rates for PTSD in both men (65%), and women (45.9%).  And what is most startling is that according to the Department of  Defence (DOD) these rates are higher than the rate reported by men following combat exposure (38.8%).  The 'Blues’ manifested with a unique set of stressors in the past and today.  Common emotional reactions to sexual harassment are shame, guilt, or self-blame, problems with interpersonal relationships, difficulties with trust, engaging in social activities, and sexual satisfaction.  Sexual harassment is also said to contribute to acute anxiety in men.

Employers may pay a high price for the ‘Blues' in the workplace.  Employee morale may drop and with that production and the profit margin.  Sexual harassment may cost the employer in absenteeism, health care costs, and legal fees.  The wise employer would do well to see to it that the ‘Blues’ is not present in the workplace. 

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