Intimidation is corruption

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Intimidation is corruption

If you rape me, you’ll kill me. This slogan was painted on a wall near a railway station during the eighties. I passed it daily and every time the impact was huge. It’s that bad!

The number of incidents are systematic: The cesspit that opened in the Catholic Church; serious incidents in sports that happened between trainers and youthful athletes; in the army and student clubs with their humiliation and (sexual) abuses. An EU research from 2014 reported that 1 in 20 women in Europe have been raped, with 30% of the cases being work-related. Recently a Dutch news site reported that big law firms in Amsterdam tolerate sexual intimidation as long as the perpetrator is successful and brings sufficient euros to the firm. The incidents are connected with power and dependency. Those who feel depended fear for their career and keep silent. People with power don’t seem to know the dilemma: do I misuse my power and attractiveness? Accountability is not really an issue. Officially nothing happens!

Power corrupts. It’s an issue as old as time itself. People often aren’t able to deal with power, especially when it’s embedded in an obscure subculture. A strong and critical counterweight is needed. Sexual intimidation, like all forms of threat, is a type of deception and corruption. It’s defined as a person who abuses his power to gain unauthorized favours to himself or others.

Taking risk serious

Integrity programmes put the organizational and personal values of participants in order: honesty, liability, me and the other, collegiately, professionalism and quality. The answer to the question – what are you doing when you are threatened in your personal integrity? – is to defend yourself. In hierarchies and subcultures of power abuse defending yourself is hard to do. The person reporting an incident isnt taken seriously or is taunted. Organisations are looking away or trough the fingers. That’s not right, because the feeling of ‘murder’ indicates the enormous personal, organizational and social damage. A clear approach is needed; comparable with the approach towards fraud and corruption. In those cases there are immediately criminal investigations and suspensions. Each kind of intimidation is part of serious company’ risks. The prevention and eradication of intimidation need to be part of a modern, systematic approach of integrity in company policy and in criminal law. An approach that also contributes to an honest and transparent process for all those involved.

In companies compliance departments and ethical officers report directly to the CEO. The fight against intimidation requires CEO’s active participation to realize corporate social responsibility (CSR) and to assure the security of all employees.

Henk Bruning

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