Like many, I have been greatly affected by the reports of harassment within the publishing industry. Saddened but, like many, not all that surprised. As a young woman, I experienced or saw my share of harassment and trusted my instincts very early on about which offices I’d walk into alone and which I wouldn’t.
Harassment grows and thrives on power imbalance and as every writer and every assistant knows, there is a huge power imbalance in publishing. One of the most common refrains is how small this business is and how we should never burn our bridges. It seems that at some point or another an agent or editor you once worked with pops up somewhere else, making it impossible for you to avoid her forever, but this fear of burning bridges is also fuel for continued harassment.
We have seen some devastating reports in children’s publishing, but I don’t believe the stories end there. In a business where many people work for smaller companies (like agencies) with no human resources departments and, frankly, no resources, victims don’t feel they have anywhere to turn. In large publishing companies where editors are just as big of stars as the authors they publish there are no resources, or at least victims don’t feel they have resources.
For every brave person who has come forward to name her harasser, there are probably five who are wondering if they should, how they should or just wanting to forget. I support all of those who have come forward, and I support all of those who just can’t. But these women (and men) need more than just our support. They need the resources to help them put a stop to not only their own harassment but the potential harassment of others.
SCBWI and other organizations have reacted to the reports of harassment in children’s publishing by creating a dedicated email to which harassment can be reported. The caveat–it needs to have happened at an SCBWI event or on their website. What about an author who has experienced harassment from an agent or publisher? Where can they report?
I am hoping that we as an industry can do more than just offer support. I’m hoping that as more victims bravely step forward (and they will) that we can give them a safe place to make reports and provide resources and a place to fall. I am not entirely sure what the answer is yet, but I’m exploring the options.