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Sex Discrimination Objectives

Learning Objectives

This acivity will provide you with information about:

  • The nature of sexual harassment.
  • Actions you can take to deal with sexual harassment.
  • Steps to promote appropriate behaviour.

Sexual Harassment

24 February 2012
Published In:

Lesson Overview

Welcome to this short scenario where Jodie's treatment by a coach prompts the club to consider the issue of sexual harassment.

Start Lesson

Setting the scene...

Sport, like work, brings people together. Yet the relationships that develop aren't always clear cut, particularly when there are power imbalances and/or where feelings aren't reciprocated.

The following scenario explores some of the issues that may occur within a sporting club that could result in a sexual harassment complaint. Although the issues won't be the same for every situation, the principles in resolving the issues will be the same.

As you read through the material think about what you would do in this situation. If you would like more information click on the resources menu item at the top of the page.

View learning objectives

Continue to Scene 1

Scene 1: Before the game

When Jodie's coach Ben approaches her before the game, she is uncomfortable. Jodie is uncomfortable with Ben's increasing attention toward her.

Ben: "Good to see you are early again. By the way, I've noticed you with Henry quite a lot lately. Is he your boyfriend?"

Jodie: "No, he's just a friend."

sexual-harassment-s1

Continue to Scene 2

Scene 2: Drinks break

Ben calls a drinks break and approaches Jodie again.

Ben: "You're doing really well today."

Jodie: "Thanks."

Ben: "Are you going to the gym or dieting or something?"

Jodie: "No."

Ben: "Well you're looking really beautiful, and look like you've lost weight."

Jodie: "Well I haven't."

sexual-harassment-s2

Continue to Scene 3

Scene 3: End of training

Ben calls the players together at the end of the training session, makes a statement about Saturday's game and tells them they can go. As they're doing so he slides up to Jodie and puts his arm around her.

Ben: "Do you need a lift home?"

Jodie: "No thanks."

Ben: "You sure? I'm going your way. It'd be no trouble to drop you off."

Jodie: "No. It's okay, I'm getting a lift with Emma."

Ben: "Okay, Maybe another time then."

sexual-harassment-s3

Continue to Scene 4

Scene 4: Jodie talks to the club administrator

Jodie approaches Kerin, the administrator, and complains about Ben's behaviour.

"I'm getting really fed up with Ben. He's always hanging around and making personal comments. I dont like it."

How should Kerin respond?

sexual-harassment-s4

A) "Hey, but you're a great girl and he's single, it's not surprising he's interested in you."

This response is inappropriate and accepts sexual harassment as 'normal' male behaviour. It also trivialises the issue. A young woman faced with this response may lose confidence (in herself and the administration), drop out, seek legal advice, or take action against the club for not dealing with the harassment.

All club officials, be they coaches, administrators or board members - must take complaints of sexual harassment seriously.

Resources:

Australian Human Rights Comission - Sexual Harassment

Interview with Equal Opportunity Counciliator

AFL Respect & Responsibility Program: Dr Melanie Heenan

Try a different response

B) "I'm sure Ben doesn't mean anything by it. Don't worry about it."

Not a good response.

Ben's intentions shouldn't be the focus of the discussion. Jodie believes she's being sexually harassed and it's her perception that's critical. Nor should Kerin be defending the coach's behaviour.

Any administrator who recieves a complaint needs to take the matter seriously and either:

  • refer to their Member Protection Policy for guidance on dealing with issue, or
  • contact their state/territory anti-discrimination agency for advice.

Resources:

Australian Human Rights Comission - Sexual Harassment

Interview with Equal Opportunity Counciliator

AFL Respect & Responsibility Program: Dr Melanie Heenan

Try a different response

C) "If this behaviour upsets you, you need to tell him."

This might be an appropriate response if Ben and Jodie were peers but they're not. As an adult coach Ben is in a powerful position, he decides on training regimes, team selection and player position. By telling Jodie that she's responsible for dealing with the coach's behaviour, Kerin is ignoring her legal responsibilitites and duty of care obligations.

Resources:

Australian Human Rights Comission - Sexual Harassment

Interview with Equal Opportunity Counciliator

AFL Respect & Responsibility Program: Dr Melanie Heenan

Try a different response

D) "I can see you're upset by this. What would you like me to do about it?"

Displaying empathy and indicating a willingness to take action is a good place to start. As is asking Jodie how she'd like the situation handled. But a good administrator needs to do more than this. He or she would need to talk to the person making the complaint about the options available to them, reassure them that they would not be victimised and address their concerns.

Resources:

Australian Human Rights Comission - Sexual Harassment

Interview with Equal Opportunity Counciliator

AFL Respect & Responsibility Program: Dr Melanie Heenan

Continue to Scene 5

Scene 5: Kerin addresses the complaint

Kerin decides to talk about Jodie's concern with Ben.

Would it be best if she:

sexual-harassment-s5

A) Approaches him in the car park after training so as not to make it a big deal.

This is not the way to handle complaints, particularly complaints relating to sexual harassment.

Approaching someone when they're leaving - and may have other commitments which prevent them staying to talk about the issue - means that not only is the matter unlikely to recieve the attention it deserves, it may also prompt anger, hostility, denials and/or confusion that can't be appropriately dealt with in the time available. No one benefits from such a situation.

Sexual harassment is against the law and needs to be taken seriously.

Resources:

AFL Respect & Responsibility Program: Dr Melanie Heenan

Try a different response

B) Ask to see Ben privately.

This is a good course of action. Sexual harassment is a serious matter and any discussion of a complaint needs to be private, confidential and unhurried. It's therefore wise to:

  • make time to speak to the person against whom the complaint has been made
  • choose a quiet location where interruptions are unlikely and the discussion won't be overheard
  • plan your approach e.g. stay calm, don't take sides (e.g. by blamming, accusing, defending)

Resources:

AFL Respect & Responsibility Program: Dr Melanie Heenan

Continue to Scene 6

C) Makes a time to talk with all the coaches about sexual harassment and uses this situation as an example - but without naming anyone.

Although reminding coaches and club officials about their responsibilities in preventing sexual harassment is a good thing to do, it doesn't deal with the specific complaint. Ben has to be approached about his behaviour and a public forum is not the place for this to occur.

Resources:

AFL Respect & Responsibility Program: Dr Melanie Heenan

Try a different response

D) Waits until they are both in a social setting before mentioning the matter - that way the issue can be discussed when Ben is feeling relaxed and at ease.

This is not the way to deal with complaints, particularly complaints about sexual harassment.

While it is important that the person against whom a complaint has been made is able to tell their side of the story, this shouldn't occur in a social setting where:

  • the seriousness of the issue is diminished by the surroundings
  • others may overhear the conversation
  • the setting implies support for the coach.

Resources:

AFL Respect & Responsibility Program: Dr Melanie Heenan

Try a different response

Scene 6: Club administration meets with the coach

Kerin meets with Ben and explains that Jodie is upset by his behaviour and feels sexually harassed. Ben might react in a number of ways.

Click on each response to see how Kerin could handle Ben's reaction.

sexual-harassment-s6

A) "I wasn't harassing her, I was trying to get her to go out with me. I really like her! why can't I ask her out?"

Although Jodie is 17, sexual relationships between coaches and children/young people is against the law.

An administrator faced with this response should:

  • explain why the behaviour constitutes sexual harassment i.e. it's unwelcomed and unwanted
  • help the coach understand the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behaviour
  • emphasise the importance of maintaining appropriate boundaries
  • describe the club's expectations of coaches
  • talk about the coach's role and responsibilities including his Duty of Care and the coaches' Code of Behaviour.
  • keep an accurate record of the conversation.

Resources:

Australian Human Rights Comission - Sexual Harassment

Australian Sports Commission: Debbie Simms

AFL Respect & Responsibility Program: Dr Melanie Heenan

 

Interview with Equal Opportunity Counciliator

Appropriate Boundaries Guidelines

Explore other options

Continue to Scene 7

B) "I was really just being friendly. She seems very shy, so I was trying to boost her confidence. I didn't mean anything by it."

Not all coaches will realise that their behaviour is against the law. In fact some may be genuinely suprised that their overtures have caused distress. In this case the administrator needs to:

  • talk about the inapropriateness of the behaviour
  • help the individual understand the nature of sexual harassment
  • discuss how the coach will behave in the future
  • keep an accurate record of the conversation

Resources:

Australian Human Rights Comission - Sexual Harassment

Australian Sports Commission: Debbie Simms

AFL Respect & Responsibility Program: Dr Melanie Heenan

Interview with Equal Opportunity Counciliator

Appropriate Boundaries Guidelines

Explore other options

Continue to Scene 7

C) "I don't know what the fuss is about! I haven't done anything wrong. Sexual harassment - you have got to be kidding me!"

Coaches who have been accused of sexual harassment are likely to feel defensive. That's understandable, particularly if they're genuinely confused about what they have done to cause offence. The administrator's role in this situation is to:

  • listen to the coaches version of events
  • clarify the nature of sexual harassment and reinforce that unwanted behaviour is against the law
  • provide information about interpersonal boundaries between coach/player
  • explain club and coach roles and responsibilities
  • reach an agreement over what happens next
  • keep a record of the discussion.

Resources:

Australian Human Rights Comission - Sexual Harassment

Australian Sports Commission: Debbie Simms

AFL Respect & Responsibility Program: Dr Melanie Heenan

Interview with Equal Opportunity Counciliator

Appropriate Boundaries Guidelines

Explore other options

Continue to Scene 7

D) "This is bullshit! she's just causing trouble - I heard she likes me anyway! I haven't done anything wrong. You ask the other girls!"

Some coaches will react to complaints of harassment with anger, hostility, defensiveness and attacks on the complaintant's character.

This type of response makes communication difficult and can make the situation worse if the administrator doesn't take steps to:

  • acknowledge the coaches feelings
  • emphasise the need for cooperation
  • clarify the nature of sexual harassment e.g. unwanted behaviour
  • explain the club's responsibilities
  • describe how the matter can/will be handled
  • reach an agreement with the coach about his future behaviour.

Everything discussed during this meeting should be noted and stored in a safe place.

Resources:

Australian Human Rights Comission - Sexual Harassment

Australian Sports Commission: Debbie Simms

AFL Respect & Responsibility Program: Dr Melanie Heenan

Interview with Equal Opportunity Counciliator

Appropriate Boundaries Guidelines

Explore other options

Continue to Scene 7

Scene 7: Kerin and Ben discuss issue.

Kerin has discussed the issue with Ben and Ben has agreed to change his behaviour. But the matter doesn't end here.

Kerin needs to:

  • let Jodie know the outcome of the discussion
  • check she is happy with this
  • monitor the situation.

Resources:

AFL Respect & Responsibility Program: Dr Melanie Heenan

AFL Respect & Responsibility program: Dr Melanie Heenan responds to complaints

But what if...

sexual-harassment-s7

Jodie's not happy

Steps to consider

  • talk to Jodie about what she wants to happen
  • suggest she talks to the club's Member Protection Officer, the State Sports Organisation or Equal Opportunity Commission
  • offer mediation
  • make sure she understands all the options available to her and reassure her that whatever step she takes she will not be victimised or punished for her actions.

Explore other options

Continue

Ben's behaviour doesn't change

Steps to consider

  • talk to Jodie about what she wants to happen
  • follow your club's complaint handling procedures for how to handle the complaint from here and for determining any disciplinary action against Ben.

Explore other options

Continue

Feedback

You have now completed the scenario, we hope it helped you develop a better understanding of how to deal with these issues if they arise in your club.

Your feedback would be appreciated to assist us in continually improving our resources.

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