tools & resources

You are working in the arts and are confronted with sexism, (sexual) harassment or power abuse

① What can you do yourself?

The possibility to act on your own behalf depends entirely on the situation. If a person makes you feel uncomfortable or their behaviour is inappropriate, and you feel in a position to address this to the person: do that. You have all the right to address this and put your own limits.

Tell this person it is not ok to talk or behave in the way they do. Explain why this behavior is problematic. Give the person room to reply. Propose it as a chance for change. Communicate clearly what you would like that change to be. Maybe, for example, you simply need an apology and see the person being willing to change?

It is of course possible that the severity of the situation does not allow you to continue working together. Maybe a third person can help in that case.

It is always advised to talk to a colleague you trust. This person can give advice and can support you.

② What can you do if you cannot address the problem by yourself?

While some problems can be solved with a one-on-one conversations, some instances are too severe or complex for that. In those situations you will need to be assisted and supported by an organization. If the situation concerns physical violence contact a doctor. Knowing that most artists work as freelancers and are only temporarily connected to institutions, you might need to evaluate different options that depend on the context you are working in.

If your work is in any way connected to an organization or an institution, it is advised to talk to a person in charge (i.e. project leader, employer, venue director,…). They might have a person within the organisation who is especially assigned to deal with these issues. This can be a confidential person, an prevention advisor specializing in psychosocial wellbeing, or an external service. The coordinates of these persons and services have to be present according to proper work regulations. Temporary co-workers should have received this information and be able to rely on the assistance it provides as well. In these conversations, the person you go to should first listen to your experiences. Then, you will likely discuss together the different options for action.

If none of the above described options are helpful or apply to your situation (e.g. if you are a freelancer, the experience has happened a couple of years ago, you don't trust your employer, ...) you can always contact the Genderkamer of the Flemish Ombuds Service (EN/NL). Nina Callens and Viktor Van der Veken have an ombudsfunction that specifically deals with transgressive behaviour in the field of culture and arts. They will listen to your situation, give your advise or support negotiations and they have a mandate to file an offiial complaint. You can contact that via genderkamer@vlaamseombudsdienst.be. You can also contact ENGAGEMENT through contact@engagementarts.be, where you can talk to one of the certified confidants (EN/NL/FR).

If you are a member of a union you can contact them directly and ask for their advice. Especially in cases of contractual disputes they might be able to help. Unions can function as external mediators and provide juridical advice or support.

③ Do you want to share your experience with a community of artists?

ENGAGEMENT organises monthly Open Meetings. Since covid entered our lives, those meetings are taking place online. They are basically peer-to-peer conversations starting from solidarity, frequented by artists. Together we try, everytime again, to build a space to share and listen, in solidarity. We build that space together. It is not a problem if you have not been to a meeting before. People come and go, the space is open every time again for new people. Registering for this meeting can be done via e-mail: contact@engagementarts.be.

④ Specialized assistance

If the situation concerns physical violence: contact a doctor.

If you prefer to talk anonymously, you can call:

  • 1712 (Dutch-speaking)
  • 0800/98.100 (French-speaking)

Contact an organization that is specialized in helping victims of sexual violence:

You are an employer/organization/institution. How to prevent discrimination, harassment and violence in the professional context?

① Underline that your organization prioritizes a healthy working environment, respectful working relationships, ethical leadership and that your employees practice zero tolerance towards harassment and violence.

Inform all your co-workers about the subject. Avoid taboos and create a culture of openness and transparency. This way you will minimize the risk of victims remaining silent. Invite external organisations and institutions for mandatory workshops on the subject periodically. If you are a director, attend these workshops together with your employees.

③ It is important to create space for discussions without the presence of the people in positions of power. Encourage employees to organize themselves. Engage in open conversations and implement changes where problems arise.

④ Invest in training one or several confidants (trainings are offered by Sociaal Fonds Podiumkunsten).

⑤ Inform yourself of the legal context concerning these issues. Make this information visible to both employees and freelancers you contract. For example, add a paragraph on harassment in all the working contracts. Mention investigation policies and possible penalties or sanctions incurred as a result of transgressions.

⑥ If despite all, harassment occurs, take the complaints seriously and follow the internal procedures of your institution. Make sure your procedures are in line with the law. Give legal advice and provide psychological support when needed. For support and questions, don't hesitate to contact genderkamer@vlaamseombudsdienst.be.