Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Who Needs Your Light"

This is the second freebie for the November 6, 2018 Poetry Fishbowl. You have new prompters [personal profile] fuzzyred and Soupshue to thank for it. This poem was written outside the regular prompt calls. It also fills the "dependable" square in my 1-31-18 You Are card for the Valentines Bingo fest. It belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series. This comes after the story "Screwed" by Siliconshaman, so read that first.

Warning: This poem contains some controversial topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features references to past sexual assault, addressing the incident among other staff at Blues Moon, calling in a counselor, a strictly voluntary presentation about sexual harassment and assault, people sensibly excusing themselves from said discussion for various reasons, and everyone just accepting that's a safe and sane thing for them to do, list of steps for dealing with a harasser, challenges that make certain steps harder to follow, and other angst. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.

"Who Needs Your Light"

[Afternoon of Tuesday, December 23, 2014]

Once Boss White had done his best
to deal with the immediate problems
left by last night's incident, he moved on
to damage control and steps that should
reduce the chance of a repetition.

He still hadn't found Chyou, but
she was bound to turn up eventually,
and some of this stuff couldn't wait.

He placed an urgent phone call to
the Omaha Personal Repair Center
and explained that a customer had
sexually assaulted an employee, then
asked them to send someone to talk
with the staff about how to prevent
and handle that kind of situation.

Then he passed the word about
the presentation to his employees.

They already had policies for this, but
apparently those hadn't been enough.

Blues Moon was full of staff but
not yet open to customers when
the requested counselor arrived.

Boss White gathered people in
the lounge and said, "All right, let me
start by repeating that this session is
voluntary, in case anyone missed that.
Mandatory sexual harassment training
is sexual harassment, because it makes
employment dependent on listening to
sex talk. That ain't right. So if you don't
feel comfortable, you can leave."

Buttons stood up. "I'm outta here,"
she said. "I don't trust my control, and
you don't need to replace a table."

A few other people nodded
and slipped out of the lounge.

Boss White knew that Sue Bee
had been bothered plenty at
her last job, which is why she
never wanted to talk about sex
while working at Blues Moon.

He wasn't sure about Taye;
that boy was so quiet that it was
hard to tell anything on his mind.

Cook, of course, was in the kitchen,
as he neither needed nor wanted
this kind of discussion at work.

"Now, we do have incentives for
those of you who choose to stay and
listen to the pitch," Boss White said.

Soft cheers went around the room.

"Everything done here is on the clock,
so you get paid for it," Boss White went on.
"If you need time off to visit the center, let me
know and I'll make it happen. If you pass
a credentialed class, that gets added to
your resume, so you might get a raise
or consideration for a promotion."

Then Janeel raised a hand, and when
Boss White nodded to him, he said,
"I'm interested in the information and
the perks, but I ... uh, really don't feel
comfortable talking about sex in public.
I gotta work with these people! Is there
any other way to get credit for this?"

"Yes, everything is available in private
presentations," Boss White said. "Right now
we're just going to lay out some opportunities
and materials, then a quick review of safety.
You can pick what you want from those,
and we'll schedule stuff as we can."

"Great, can I get a business card
or something?" Janeel said.

"I'm sure you can," Boss White said,
waving a hand at the black person beside
him. "This here's Francys Kline. They work
at the Omaha Personal Repair Center, so
you can catch up with them there."

"I have business cards to hand out,
and brochures on relevant topics on
the table behind me," Francys said.
"Anyone who missed today's meeting
can catch any of our other activities,
so grab extras for absent friends."

A thick stack of cards made the rounds,
and as soon as Janeel got one, he
waved and trotted out of the lounge.

"First of all, if you learn better from text or
pictures than from listening, please check out
the brochures. I won't take offense," said Francys.
"I have some on sexual harassment and assault,
including special victims like men and queerfolk.
That includes incest and other child molestation too.
There's information for survivors, along with friends
and family. Take some for yourself or other folks."

Boss White nodded in approval, and people
began drifting to the front of the room to riffle
through the colorful stacks of material.

He never had liked speakers who demanded
everyone's complete attention. Some folks
just listened better with their hands full.

"What's this stuff?" Manda asked,
pointing to a pile of handbooks.

"You're getting a bit ahead of me, but
that's okay," Francys said. "Those are
guides for volunteers who want to prevent
sexual violence or work with survivors."

"Cool," Manda said, loading up.
"People are always telling me stuff,
so it'd be nice to know how to handle it."

"Are these posters?" Nassor said as he
spread his long dark fingers on the table.

"Yes, those teach upstander skills,"
Francys said. "I thought folks might want
something to hang up as a prompt."

"These on harassment have guys,
and these on Islamophobia have girls,"
Nassor said. "We could put one of each
in the dotties for customers to read."

"That's a good idea," Francys said.
"There's another aimed at staff."

"That can go in the hall to the kitchen,"
Boss White said. "Nassor, that can be
your job after this meeting. Pick up a set
of posters and hang them around the joint."

"Yes, sir," Nassor said, gathering the pages.

"Street harassment?" asked Door, as he
held up a long, multicolored strip of paper.

"Put that in the foyer by the exit,"
said Boss White. "Give folks
some tips to get home safe."

"If we put up all that stuff, then we'd
better switch out the music posters too,"
said Shakes. "Otherwise the customers
might see it as nagging instead of helping."

"We definitely don't want that," Francys said.
"Nagging backfires. Modeling desired behavior
is what motivates other people to change."

"All right, that's a good point," Boss White said.
"Shakes, ask Dymin for the latest band flyers and
we'll swap 'em early. Hang up some new stuff
for Christmas too, that should help color it up."

"Can do," said Shakes. "May I add posters
with drink recipes? People keep bugging me
for those, and I don't have the time for it."

"Sure, as long as you include recipes for
both alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks,"
Boss White said. "We gotta keep it fair."

"Thanks," said Shakes. "I'll run off
a batch after the meeting wraps up."

By then, everyone who wanted
handouts had picked up theirs and
wandered back to their seats.

"Okay, let me give everyone
a rundown of services offered at
the Omaha Personal Repair Center,"
said Francys. "We cover every topic
listed on the handouts. We do private,
couples, family, and group counseling.
We have specialists for other modes
like sand tray therapy, music, and art."

"I've done support groups for alcoholism,"
said Shakes. "Maybe get one together
just for the employees here, to talk about
what happened? Some people might not
want that talk spread all over town."

"We could do that, if people are
interested," Francys said. "I'll put out
a sign up sheet for those who are."

"I'm talking with the Finns about
arranging some presentations,"
Boss White said. "Could you
spare a page? Might be useful
to get a show of hands for them too."

"No problem," Francys said, and
and handed him the relevant page.

Boss White jotted down his ideas
for Finn talks and passed it around.

Plenty of folks seemed to be
signing onto one or both pages.
That was an encouraging sign.

"I'm glad to see that you're interested
in what we have to offer," Francys said.
"Next, let's go over the local steps
for handling sexual harassment.
Can someone list yours for me?"

Manda raised her hand and said,
"First, tell them to stop. Stay out of
easy reach. If they don't stop, then
appeal to authority. Get a bouncer
to throw out a rude customer. Get
a manager to deal with a coworker.
Tell the boss if it's a manager.
Yell for help if it gets bad!"

"We don't put up with that here,"
Boss White added. "Bad customers
can't come back, and bad staff get fired."

"Those are great steps," Francys said.
"Can anyone think of things that might
go wrong, and how to solve the problem?"

"The bouncers stay at the doors or they
loop the dance floor," Gabby said. "That's
not always where the trouble starts."

"We can't be everywhere," Door protested.

"It's a jazz joint," Shakes said. "It gets
really loud in here. Even if someone
yelled, they might not get heard. I'm
lucky if I can hear people order drinks!"

"Those are valid concerns," Francis said.
"Now let's explore possible solutions."

"We could use hand signals," Gabby said.
"Those wouldn't be affected by noise."

"The light's too dim," Nassor pointed out.

"Yeah, and when people dance, they
raise their arms," Shakes added. "It's
the same clutter problem as with sound."

"What about a panic app?" Manda said.
"I have one on my phone for walking at night."

"Nope, no phones while you're working,"
Boss White said. "Too much temptation."

"Panic button, like a keyfob?" Door said. "I
seen those before, at hotels and casinos.

"Okay, how many people would be
interested in that?" Boss White said.
"Raise your hands so I can see."

More than a dozen went up.

"All right, I'll check around and
see what's available," he said.

If nothing suited his needs,
he could make another call
to the Finns and get it custom.

"It's not like this place is unsafe,
though," said Shakes. "We don't
want anyone to think that. Sure, guys
get drunk and keep the bouncers busy,
but it's been years since anyone got hurt."

"So I heard," Francys said. "We're not
trying to make anyone feel bad, just
offer options to keep things like this
from happening to anyone else. It's
up to you what to pursue, or not."

"Remember we got survivors around
already," Boss White said. "It's fine if
they want to speak up, or keep quiet.
More tools in the box can't hurt."

"Maybe some people don't want to be
thought of as victims," Nassor said,
shaking his head. "You never know
when folks might get weird about it."

"You’re not a victim for sharing your story,"
Francys said firmly. "You are a survivor
setting the world on fire with your truth --
and you never know who needs your light,
your warmth, and raging courage."

Other people murmured support,
and Boss White nodded his approval.

A timer chimed, and Francys lifted
their vidwatch. "Five minute warning,"
they said. "Any last questions, folks?"

There were a few, mostly about when
the services would be available, and
Francys answered them quickly.

"All right, folks, that's a wrap,"
Boss White said. "We got at least
one new idea to try, so that should
help. Thank you all for coming. I'll
keep you posted on other events."

The small crowd broke up as people
headed to their stations or went about
the tasks he had assigned to them.

Manda paused on her way out
and said, "Thanks for sticking up
for us, boss. This is way better
than anywhere else I've worked."

"That's my job," Boss White said.
"Being the boss means that I need
to take good care of my employees."

Survivors weren't the only ones with a light.

* * *


Francys Kline -- They have caramel skin, brown eyes, and long nappy black hair in narrow dreadlocks. They wear glasses. Both ears are double-pierced. They are genderqueer. Francys lives in Omaha, Nebraska and works as a counselor at the Omaha Personal Repair Center. They have survived racism, sexism, queerbashing, and and harassment in masculine and feminine modes. They are androgynosexual, preferring partners with a mix of gender traits.
Qualities: Good (+2) Big and Tall, Good (+2) Emotional Intelligence, Good (+2) Genderqueer, Good (+2) Sexuality Counselor, Good (+2) Trustworthy
Poor (-2) Eyesight

Androgynosexual: Being sexually attracted to both men and women, specifically to those with androgynous appearances.

Sue Bee Seabeck -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and long straight brown hair. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska where she works as a waitress at Blues Moon. Sue Bee has been harassed at previous jobs and appreciates this one because the environment is safer, but she still doesn't want to talk about anything sexual at work, ever.
Qualities: Good (+2) Intrapersonal Intelligence, Good (+2) Endurance, Good (+2) Work Ethic
Poor (-2) Sexual Harassment Survivor

Taye Deighton -- He has light brown skin, black eyes, and short nappy black hair with just a little mustache and beard. He comes from a family plagued by sexual abuse and addiction issues. He is reserved and a little melancholy, but a hard worker. Taye lives in Omaha, Nebraska where he works at Blues Moon as a waiter.
Qualities: Good (+2) Hard Worker, Good (+2) Quiet
Poor (-2) Dysfunctional Family

Manda Nash -- She has tinted skin, brown eyes, and long brown hair streaked with blonde. She is petite with slight curves. Manda comes from Lincoln, Nebraska where she did chorus and trumpet in high school. She currently lives in Omaha where she works as a waitress at Blues Moon. Manda is a music major at the University of Nebraska - Omaha with a concentration in Music Entrepreneurial Studies and an interest in world music. She has participated in the Fez Festival of World Sacred Music (in the summer between high school and college), the Great Plains Jazz Festival (where she got the job at Blues Moon), the International Concert Series, and the International Touring Program. She has a minor in International Studies. Manda loves people and handles them well. However, she tends to flit from one subject to another instead of sticking with one specialty.
Qualities: Good (+2) Balance, Good (+2) Musical Intelligence, Good (+2) People Skills, Good (+2) Waitress
Poor (-2) Flighty

Undergraduate Classes
1 cr. Keyboard Skills I
1 cr. Keyboard Skills II
3 cr. Voice Pedagogy
3 cr. Voice Literature
2 cr. Class Applied Jazz Improv I
2 cr. Class Applied Jazz Improv II

World Music Classes
Music of the People: Rock and Pop
Music of the People: The World
Pedagogy of Multicultural Music

International Studies Minor

Gabriella "Gabby" Breaux -- She has pinkish-fair skin, blue eyes, and short brown hair that bleaches to blonde in the sun. She is tall and stately. Gabby lives in Omaha, Nebraska where she works as a waitress at Blues Moon. Her outgoing nature makes her popular with customers.
Qualities: Good (+2) Friendly, Good (+2) Kinesthetic Intelligence, Good (+2) Practical, Good (+2) Tall, Good (+2) Waitress
Poor (-2) Not a Romantic

Nassor Asada -- He has mahogany skin, black eyes, and short nappy black hair. He is tall and thin. Nassor lives in Omaha, Nebraska where he works as a waiter at Blues Moon. Boss White is teaching him to play the upright bass. Nassor has a quiet personality, but he's well over six feet tall, which makes people think of him as a thug. That bothers him a lot.
Qualities: Good (+2) Courage, Good (+2) Intrapersonal Intelligence, Good (+2) Quiet, Good (+2) Tall
Poor (-2) Black Trauma

Upright bass is among the more common jazz instruments, popular with taller musicians.

Shakes (Nell Ecklund) -- She has sorrel skin, brown eyes, and short straight brown hair. She is short and slender. Shakes lives in Omaha, Nebraska. She works as a bartender at Blues Moon. As a jazz fan, she finds the musical atmosphere a perk of her employment. She loves being around other people, and does poorly when left alone.
Qualities: Good (+2) Bartender, Good (+2) Cheerful, Good (+2) Dexterity, Good (+2) Jazz Fan
Poor (-2) Being Alone

Door (Denton Tunnicliff) -- He has toffee skin, brown eyes, and nappy black hair. His head is shaved, and he wears a thin line of mustache and beard. He is tall and muscular. He has a rich deep voice and enjoys singing the blues. Door lives in Omaha, Nebraska. He works as a bouncer at Blues Moon.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Bouncer, Good (+2) Blues Singer, Good (+2) Interpersonal Intelligence, Good (+2) Intimidation
Poor (-2) Fine Dexterity

* * *

"You’re not a victim for sharing your story. You are a survivor setting the world on fire with your truth. And you never know who needs your light, your warmth, and raging courage."
Alex Elle

(Some of these links are touchy.)
I had a hard time finding good resources for bosses who want to stop sexual harassment at work. Some advocate mandatory sexual education at work that forces people into sexualized conversations, which is itself harassment and can be triggering for survivors. This one is less detailed but more sensible. Here are some ways that bosses can support survivors. Coworkers can help a friend who has been harassed.

1. What kinds of behavior could be considered sexual harassment?
• Unwanted letters, telephone calls, or materials of a sexual nature
• Turning work discussions to sexual topics

Some states now mandate sexual harassment training and other sex talk at work. This means employment often requires a willingness to endure unwanted sex talk, and even requires that employers sexually harass employees by forcing them to sit through unwelcome discussions of sexual issues, a topic many people feel is not appropriate at work. The very presence of mandatory sexual harassment training falsifies its premise that all sexual activities require free consent and may not have consequences attached to refusing them. This proves to would-be harassers that they don't need consent; they only need to have power over people. Given that about 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men have experienced sexual violence, this is triggering for many survivors. Their choices are to endure further abuse, or lose their job -- even though the law supposedly protects people's right to refuse sex talk at work and refuse orders that would violate other people's rights. Embarrassing sex talk can also make it harder to interact with coworkers after the event.

Nagging in general doesn't work for many reasons, and often backfires. Similarly, sexual harassment training is ineffective, and it can make matters worse for various reasons. Instead of nagging people, model the desired behavior; that actually does work.

There are many brochures and booklets on sexual violence. I found a good set from Texas; these are often mocked up blank and then the state or other organizational information can be pasted in.

Confronting Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Brochure

Confronting Sexual Assault

Male Survivors of Sexual Assault

LGBTQI Survivors of Sexual Assault

Sexual Assault of People with Disabilities: A Guide for Loved Ones

Prison Rape

Sexual Assault Examinations Without Police Involvement

Sexual Assault Survivors - Know Your Legal Rights

Guidebook for Survivors of Sexual Assault

Avoiding Non-Stranger Rape

Rape in Marriage

Incest: Sexual Abuse Within the Family

Adults Molested as Children

Practical Advice for the Signifiant Other

Each year national and local leaders proclaim the month of April as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM). The 2014 SAAPM toolkit focuses on the engagement of males in the prevention and awareness of sexual assault.

Break the Box Poster Faces

Break the Box Poster 3 Things You Can Do

Tools for Change

Engaging Volunteers in Primary Prevention

Sexual Assault Advocate Training Manual

The upstanding posters include Upstander Brochures and Tips, Where Do You Stand? 4 Things You Can Do, Troubleshooting for Event Staff & Volunteers, Islamophobic Harassment, and Street Harassment: A Bystander's Guide.

Posters about drinks include Cocktail Recipes Alcoholic and Nonalcoholic, 12 Drinks of Christmas, and DIY Hot Chocolate Builder.

Here is a sample sign up sheet for activities.

(Some of these links are touchy.)
Violence is common in and around bars, but much more in some than in others. Blues Moon is a family establishment, maintained as a safe place to hang out. Sexual harassment is also rife in the nightlife, as shown by this study using a gizmotronic dress. Bouncers and bartenders can do a lot to reduce harassment. This is already the norm at Blues Moon, but nobody can be everywhere.

Panic buttons are used in some industries that are prone to harassment. They may let the user sound a personal alarm, phone an emergency number, or summon security. A handful of employees at Blues Moon find this appealing -- mostly people who have been harassed elsewhere -- but most don't feel that it's necessary. The environment is normally safe.
Tags: activism, cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, poem, poetry, reading, safety, weblit, writing

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