68 seconds.

Hardly enough time to fully get out of bed in the morning, under the recommended amount of time for brushing one's teeth. Yet, every 68 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. Every 9 minutes, that victim is a child (RAINN, 2021).

2 million people become victims of workplace violence annually (Dobrilova, 2022).

The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network reported 463,634 rape and sexual assault victims annually (12 and older). 81% of women and 43% of men reported experiencing sexual harassment and/or assault in their lifetime (NSVRC, 2018). Yet, despite the prevalence of assault and harassment, only 2 of every 3 crimes are reported; of these perpetrators, only 2.5% will be charged, leaving 97.5% to walk free (RAINN, 2021).


Women report around 30,000 sexual assaults on the job (Dobrilova, 2022).


Attackers mainly aim for the upper portion of the body, leading to 35% of workplace violence incidents involving head injuries (Dobrilova, 2022). This is the tip of the iceberg for the statistical information published on sexual and physical crimes in the United States. Yet, shocking as they might be, these surveys and studies are after a 50% fall in sexual assault and harassment cases within the last 20 years (RAINN,2021).

 





 

The wedding and event industry is often glossed over when workplace assault and harassment are brought up. However, regardless of what industry you work in, the threat of harassment and assault is a reality. Yet, the glitz and glamor, the perfect lines, organized order-think JLo in the Wedding Planner- is often all that is seen by those outside the industry. Whatever the reason for overlooking this sector of life event planning, the topic needs discussing. Most, if not all, wedding and event industry workers are the giving type. We strive to go above and beyond for our clients, often to our detriment. Despite long work hours, minor breaks, and aching feet, seeing a client's vision come to life is worth it. But creating a real-life-dream on a tight timeline can lead to blatant disregard for personal safety. There just isn't enough time to consider the danger surrounding a middle of nowhere field or downtown city district. The main priorities are the client's desires, a well-planned timeline, and all crises avoided. The chaos we love blinds us from our surroundings and otherwise unsavory behavior from others. These descriptions may surprise and trigger empathy from those not in the wedding and event industry. Still, some might question: "Why not pay better attention to your surroundings or become better prepared?"

 




 

Summer of 2021, the wedding industry was feeling the mid-season rush. Thousands of couples across the United States rushed to hire vendors and host their weddings before the pandemic inevitably spiked again. Unfortunately, after a year of isolation, the festivities led to many late-night weddings. Celebrations starting with light refreshments ended with problematic alcohol and even illicit drugs.


Despite having previous encounters with violence and harassment, we went into a specific wedding with the same excitement and hope as we always do. However, this one wedding sparked our understanding that no matter how much we prepare and are aware of what is happening around us, there is always a possibility.


Audrey's Truth

I knew something was off that night. The panic set in when I realized I had no idea where Audrey was. Quickly, I took off to the last areas I knew her to be located. Eventually, we met back up simultaneously near the main hall. One look at her face, and I knew exactly what had occurred.

So why do we tell you this story? Because there is no way to control the guests or the atmosphere. What we can do, as wedding vendors, is take action and know the facts.

Though there is NO EXCUSE for committing an act of sexual or physical violence or harassment, approximately one-half of all sexual assaults are committed by men who have consumed alcohol (Abbeyet al., 2001).

Perpetrators also target individuals who are less likely to report their assault or more minor alleged to be believed (such as someone being paid to provide a service) (PANO, 2009)

Subsequently, this means that perpetrators often go after people who lack "power." Examples include women, people with disabilities, elders, teens, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, immigrants, and individuals who speak English as a second language (Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, 2009).

Combine these, and you are looking at why the wedding industry often finds itself in the middle of sexual and physical crimes.

 




 

When other vendors in the industry commit sexual or physical assault and harassment, it forces the survivor to choose between their careers and speaking out. In my own story (see below), I reported what had happened to management only after my coworker shared the situation with our manager. Despite the constant remarks to his "creepiness" and "flirtatiousness, my submission deemed narrow results." I was told to be quiet about the subject, as the vendor had close ties to the owner.


Similarly, David from Orion Entertainment had a similar problem with the event faculty not believing his concerns for his safety (read part 1 of his story below).


Ashley's Truth



David's Truth pt. 1


The perpetrators do not act alone in this rising problem; the individuals who choose to ignore the aid of the report in the continual abuse and silencing culture. The silencing David and I experienced occurs every day to victims within the industry and those outside it. In a career where networking and positive reviews mean business and success, speaking out against another in the industry is risky. Will they turn others against me? What if they sue for defacement? What will others think of me?

 




 

The long-term effects of Sexual and Physical violence are many. Three of the most common are Depression, Flashbacks, and Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome (read part 2 of David's story below).


David's Truth: pt.2


Depression:

Many survivors have feelings of sadness, unhappiness, and hopelessness, especially right after the incident. If, however, these feelings persist, it may be an indicator of depression. Depression can lead to a loss of interest and difficulty functioning, which can significantly impact a small business owner.

It is important to remember that depression is not a sign of weakness. A person experiencing depression can not simply turn off the feelings and usually benefits from the help of a professional (RAINN, 2021).


Flashbacks:

When memories of a past trauma suddenly feel as though they are happening in the present time, a survivor often has a flashback. This means that a survivor may feel as though the sexual or physical attack is happening again and causes them to relive the emotions. During a flashback, it can be challenging to connect with reality. It may even feel like the perpetrator is physically present (RAINN, 2021).


Flashbacks can be triggered by an experience that has similar sensory triggers. RAINN (2021) suggests that during a flashback:

  • Tell yourself that you are having a flashback;

  • Breathe;

  • Return to the present by using the five senses;

  • Recognize what would make you feel safer.


PTSD:

Post-traumatic stress disorder, an anxiety disorder resulting from a traumatic event, is not just found amongst military members. The disorder can apply to all survivors of trauma, including sexual violence. Common feelings during PTSD are extreme and include stress, fear, anxiety, and nervousness. People experiencing PTSD can feel as though they are constantly in danger. This makes it difficult to function in everyday life as one can imagine.


RAINN (2021) notes that PTSD symptoms include:

  • Re-experiencing: feeling like you are reliving the event through flashbacks, dreams, or intrusive thoughts

  • Avoidance: intentionally or subconsciously changing your behavior to avoid scenarios associated with the event or losing interest in activities you used to enjoy

  • Hyper-arousal: feeling on edge" all of the time, having difficulty sleeping, being easily startled, or prone to sudden outbursts


 



 

Audrey and I are not alone in these experiences.


Sexual and physical violence and harassment are not fun topics and are the last thing on a vendor's mind when meeting with others in the industry."We wanted to know who else has had similar experiences, however.


So we asked the event pros on IG: Have you ever felt in danger while working an event?

We received 140 responses."Of those 140, 71% said yes, they had felt in danger while working an event.


Below are a few short stories that were kindly shared with us about others' experiences.




















 






 

The reality is that there is not always a way to prevent the instances from happening, but we can protect ourselves from instances of sexual and physical assault and harassment.


Know the facts:

  • The biggest weapon against any form of violence and abuse is knowledge. Vendors should know the facts, warning signs, resources, and escape routes.

  • Look into the venue and see if they will have security present- they can walk you to your car and be a resource if trouble breaks out.

  • If there is no security, form a buddy system with your coworkers.


Have a clause in your contract:

  • Should an occasion arise, having a clause in your contract regarding your employees' health, safety, and overall well-being will be handy.

  • The clause will protect you from legality issues should you need to leave or are unable to continue the remaining contract quickly.


Invest in a self-defense keychain/classes and walkie talkies:

  • Taking a self-defense class is not just for those involved in law and justice; several companies around the PNW offer day camps/multiple classes for companies looking to provide themselves with the techniques for defining one's self against predators.

*Side note-these make AWESOME team bonding experiences

  • Walkie-talkies are great investments for those in the wedding and event industry." Not only will it save your phone battery, but it is a means of communication in areas with little to no reception.


  • Self-defense keychains are not just another hot "Fashion" trend; they can save lives.

  • Cascadia reached out to @Protectedbynancy, aka Self Defense Bee, to purchase a self-defense keychain for each coordinator and intern on the team." The keychains contain pepper spray, 800watt Tazer, a panic alarm, bottle opener, pocket knife, and a cute pom-pom, all on a name-brand lanyard (pictures below).



Be an active bystander:

  • An active bystander works to interrupt a potentially harmful situation. They may not be directly involved but choose to speak up and intervene (RAINN, 2022).

  • You can do this by:

  • creating a distraction

  • Asking the person at risk if they need assistance

  • Gather up others who may be able to help

  • Support the survivor during the aftermath.


 

The statistics and stories mentioned here barely touch the surface of the sexual and physical harassment and violence within our industry. We implore you to continue this conversation, ask the hard and uncomfortable questions, and remain diligent in learning how to be active bystanders.

To those who have experienced these invasive and traumatizing statistics first hand:








 

If you or someone you know needs help:


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-8255 (TALK)

www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org


National Domestic Violence Hotline

1-800-799-SAFE


National Sexual Assault Hotline

1-800-56-HOPE (4673)

https://rainn.org/get-help/national-sexual-assault-hotline/


National Center for Victims of Crime

1-202-467-8700

www.victimsofcrime.org


INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence

incite.natl@gmail.com

www.incite-national.org


Northwest Network of Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian & Gay Survivors of Abuse

1-206-568-7777

www.nwnetwork.org


The Anti-Violence Project

212-714-1141

https://avp.org/resources/


Deaf Abused Women’s Network (DAWN)

Email: Hotline@deafdawn.org

VP: 202-559-5366

www.deafdawn.org


Men Stopping Violence

1-866-717-9317

www.menstoppingviolence.org


1in6

24/7 Chatline

https://1in6.org/


Reference





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