Open Letter by 223 Women in U.S. National Security: Sexual Harassment Policies ‘Favor Perpetrators’

More than 220 women who work for the national security community within the U.S. government have signed an open letter arguing that the sexual harassment policies in their workplace have failed to protect them against violations at the hands of their male counterparts.

The letter, obtained by TIME magazine, states:

We, too, are survivors of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse or know of others who are. … And it’s time to make it stop. … We want to see leaders and managers across the national security community held accountable for creating, nurturing, and enforcing a workplace culture that respects and includes women as equal peers and colleagues.

The letter comes amid a wave of sexual harassment allegations against men that has rocked America’s media and political realm, including Hollywood, newsrooms, Congress, and prospective politicians.

“This is not just a problem in Hollywood, Silicon Valley, newsrooms or Congress. These abuses are born of imbalances of power and environments that permit such practices while silencing and shaming their survivors,” notes the letter.

“The institutions to which we belong or have served all have sexual harassment policies in place,” write the women. “Yet, these policies are weak, under-enforced, and can favor perpetrators. The existence of policies, even good ones, is not enough.”

Signed by current and former diplomats, civil servants, military personnel, development workers, and contractors, the open letter urges the federal government to require stronger sexual harassment reporting, mandatory training, and outside data collection of violations.

Explicitly, the letter demands action from “the national security community, including the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Department of Homeland Security, the intelligence community, armed forces, National Security Council, think tanks, universities, and contractors.”

The letter is titled, #metoonatsec, in reference to the “Me Too” campaign that erupted on social media networks in October following the explosion of sexual harassment allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and other prominent figures.

“Assault and harassment are just as much as a problem for women working on the night-shift cleaning offices as it is for diplomats,” says retired Ambassador Nina Hachigian, who co-authored the letter, told TIME.

The signees also call on the federal government to address the “serious gender imbalances” allegedly plaguing leadership posts.

“Male-dominated teams have been found to be more prone to abuses and more diverse teams are consistently linked to better outcomes,” concludes the letter.

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