Friday, May 16, 2014

Out of the Loop

It has been almost a year since my arrival to Japan and I can't help but notice how well I've acclemated to my life in Okinawa. However, every now and then, I notice how utterly clueless I am about the things that are occurring around me. 

 It has become a terrible habit to tune out my coworkers when they are talking about something that does not involve me. Until they say the words "ALT," "English," or "Gabi-sensei," I stay in my own blissfully ignorant head, unwilling to mentally translate anything. I was fine with this until I overheard a conversation about a coworker who was recently harassed.   

Random coworkers going about their day
(unrelated to the story below)

I didn't mean to intrude on the conversation, but the women at one of my schools were huddled around listening, in horror, to a female teacher explain the events that transpired last school year. When I tuned in and I accidentally blurted, "Are you talking about Yamada*-sensei?!" She confirmed, and explained to me that this male teacher always invaded her personal space by inappropriately touching her. He also said things that were obviously laced with innuendos. She told me she felt unsafe last year and, in order to avoid him, never took her breaks in the staff room. He was at the school for only one year, but I realized that his behavior towards her resulted in his quick transfer.

After having heard her experience, I couldn't have felt worse. I was use to working with all female coworkers in the U.S., and we had developed a system of assistance or "safe word" when we felt uncomfortable or harassed. Therefore, I wish I had been aware and "mentally present," so that I could have noticed this issue and provided some sort of deterrence. Moreover, I taught classes with this teacher so it would have been nice to have been warned other wise.

Sexual harassment, especially as a woman, tears away at your soul. 

Question to all: What are some of the things you do to ensure your safety and the safety of your coworkers? 

*name changed for obvious reasons. 

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