Dallas Therapists Say More Men Want To Talk About Appropriate Workplace Behavior
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Dallas Therapists Say More Men Want To Talk About Appropriate Workplace Behavior

With each new day, it seems another sexual predator is brought to light. What started with several women accusing movie producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment has led to dozens of other famous or notable men being outed for sexual misconduct.

Social media campaigns such as #metoo have raised awareness about sexual harassment and its prevalence. According to the American Psychological Association's website, sexual harassment in the workplace is a chronic problem that can cause lasting psychological harm.

Local therapist Elizabeth Scrivner of Park Cities Counseling says that after several former employees of The Today Show accused former anchor Matt Lauer of sexual misconduct, she noticed an immediate increase in the number of men — both her clients and her friends — asking her what does and doesn't qualify as misconduct.

"Nonpredatory males are asking me about appropriate behavior in the workplace and where Weinstein and Lauer fit in and what's appropriate now in the workplace," she says. "It's causing anxiety. Some men naturally are huggers, and now they're asking themselves, 'Is this acceptable?'"

Scrivner tells these men that predators know where the line is and enjoy crossing it.

"If you come in to hug me, you're going to know if that's acceptable or not, and you're going to know when it's time to let go. We also know on the receiving end when it feels creepy, weird or odd. Those are animal instincts," she says. "I don't think you can necessarily say [hugging is] just completely out of the workplace now. It's when the predator knows they're crossing a line and they enjoy crossing the line, no matter if it's with a long hug, an inappropriate statement, or you take it as far as harassment or actual sexual abuse."

Charity Hagains, senior therapist and co-founder of Noyau Wellness Center, says she, too, has seen an increase in men asking about what it means to be a predator. She says it surprised her at first.

"I have had people come in and ask, 'I don't think that this is me. I don't think I've ever done anything like this, but hearing some of these stories makes me wonder if flirting with this girl was appropriate or are these jokes OK? Is this an OK thing to do or say?' So a lot of guys have really expressed more of a, 'I want to ask you this question because I'm comfortable in here doing that, but now I'm a little confused about my own behavior.'"

Hagains offers education to men who might not understand their positions of power. She says those who are well intentioned can have a hard time understanding what it's like to be in a position of less power, whether physically or emotionally.

"So teaching them that they have to be very cognizant of that is important so that they can understand that they may be perceived very differently than they think they are," she says.

Men aren't the only ones heading to their therapists to open up about harassment. Scrivner says since it's become a popular topic in the news, many of her clients' pasts are beginning to resurface. Some clients are experiencing anxiety and being forced to confront past trauma. Hagains says women are examining their experiences for harassment.

"Now, I think there's an empowerment movement where people are saying, 'This feeling is something that's valid, and I shouldn't overlook it,'" she says.

APA research shows that women are more frequent targets of sexual harassment, but men can also be targets. Predators in the workplace are not only supervisors but also co-workers, subordinates, customers and clients, according to the APA.

Scrivner and Hagains say if someone confesses to them he or she is harming someone, they are required to take action and report it.

"Sometimes, when you put a famous face with this, then sometimes that helps there be less shame and a little more strength," Scrivner says. "I think that takes time for people to trust that. Then [it depends] on what they have to lose. We have a history of rehabbing and keeping offenders in colleges, in churches, in businesses. We have a longstanding pattern of not removing or having consequences for predatory behavior."

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