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Changing the conversation around sexual harassment

The New York State Attorney General report into allegations of sexual harassment against Gov. Andrew Cuomo brings the far-reaching issue to the forefront.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The New York State Attorney General report into sexual harassment allegations against Gov. Andrew Cuomo highlights a problem that's much larger than just Albany.

"We see this happening not just at that level but at so many other organizations and places as well," said Lindsey Rickard, the Vice President of Training and Innovation at BestSelf Behavioral Health.

Local advocates told 2 On Your Side the Attorney General's report is a reminder we need to change the conversation around how we address and prevent instances of sexual harassment in the workplace.

"Without talking about it, without thinking about it differently, without providing education and training and accountability, we're not gonna see change," said Caitlin Powalski, the Director of the Advocate Department at Crisis Services.

She added, "We really believe in the work that we do that we have a role to play in listening and believing and supporting survivors and then ensuring that we are all really taking a stance against negative workplace behaviors, sexual harassment, unsafe workplace behaviors and then extending that out beyond the workplace into our homes, into our communities, into the other groups that folks belong to." 

Both Rickard and Powalski said in order to prevent sexual harassment, it's a call to action for all of us. 

"That's not just the standard training everyone does yearly that we talk about sexual harassment and how to report it. That's a cultural shift. That's putting processes in place so that there's a conversation around this and preventative measures," Rickard explained.

Powalski added, "I think that we all have a role to play in this. We all have a role to stand up for survivors, to believe survivors, to ensure that survivors have access to the resources that they need to heal but also to prevent the cycle of violence from continuing."

For employers, advocates said there should be an easy system of reporting and a clear way to make sure people are protected if they do come forward.

To those who may be experiencing sexual harassment, there is help available.

Powalski told 2 on Your Side, "Sometimes it's about picking up that phone or talking to somebody else or talking to one of our team and really just exploring what options are available." 

Crisis Services’ Advocate Department is here for you by calling our 24-Hour Hotline at 716-834-3131, day or night.

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