At this special meeting of the Boulder Rotary Club moderated by President Elect Mike Brady, the three speakers led a discussion about the difficult questions submitted by the BRC audience.  See Panel Discussion at
Sexual harassment is a topic that makes people uncomfortable, and because people have their own individual experiences, community norms, generational experiences, and viewpoints based on media coverage, it can be especially difficult to talk about.

Facilitated and moderated by President Elect, Michael Brady, the three speakers, Deputy District Attorney Tim Johnson, Teresa Wroe, Director of Education and Prevention and Deputy Title IX Coordinator for the University of Colorado’s Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance and Dr. Elizabeth Meyer, the Associate Dean of Teacher Education at CU Boulder, led a discussion about the difficult questions submitted by the BRC audience.

The session began with questions like; why is this subject dominating headlines now? What is sexual harassment and why do some people have difficulty “saying no” to inappropriate behavior? Staying away from too many legal definitions, panelists described dozens of factors that may influence individuals’ perspectives on sexual harassment.

Why now? With multiple allegations brought against high profile people, many victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault are taking the opportunity to speak out in a public forum about their experiences. All three panelists agreed that with the heightened media attention, there is an opportunity for people to talk to each other about sexual harassment and address it beyond legal remedies. We have the chance to use the outcry as an opportunity to change behavior that can be devastating to the victims of sexual harassment.

Much of the discussion focused on awareness of your own behavior and how your behavior or language is being received by another person. Does that awareness mean we should all be “walking on egg shells” when we are interacting with friends, co-workers or any person? Teresa Wroe described some of the legal considerations people have to account for at work. However, work is only one part of a person’s social interactions. Beyond the legal, people thrive when they are in a safe social environment. Awareness of your own behavior and the reception of that behavior by the other person is essential to positive (harassment-free) relationships.

One of the questions submitted to the panel asked about the appropriateness of compliments - the questioner noted that he or she feels uncomfortable when a co-worker compliments his or her appearance. Dr. Meyer answered by sharing that her parents often start a conversation by asking “have you lost weight?” Because it happened frequently, it often made her uncomfortable - she wondered if that was the first thing they notice about her? Dr. Meyer noted that compliments can sometimes be perceived as a value judgement.

Tim Johnson told us that his dad often complimented women by exuberantly saying, “Wow! You look great!” Tim asked his father why he never said that Tim. Tim’s dad didn’t give that type of compliment to men. Tim’s point was that if you are considering giving a compliment and you would not give that complement to a person of a different gender, maybe it is not the type of compliment you should be giving.

Starting a conversation about sexual harassment is hard. However, with tools like those described by the panelists, self-awareness, empathy, and self-reflection, the resulting conversation can be lively, enlightening and lead to better relationships and stronger communities. Many thanks to the panelists for sharing their expertise with the club.

Boulder Rotary Club works hard to be a safe environment for all people. However, if anyone ever feels uncomfortable with the behavior or language of another person during a BRC activity, please, let any of the following people know.

President Marty Evans:
President Elect Michael Brady:           
Darla Schueth:
Dr. Peter Ewing: