THE #METOO movement against sexual assault and harassment has empowered many people in the workplace to speak out. But there’s one group still fighting to be heard: interns—the semi-skilled students and recent graduates seeking supervised practical experience in a profession and who form the backbone of many government, nonprofit, and religious organizations.
In March, Vox caused an uproar when it released copies of a nondisclosure agreement required of all congressional interns. Notably missing was an “exception for incidents of harassment, discrimination, or abuse.” The Washington Post reported that interns who came forward about sexual harassment in California, Oregon, Nebraska, and Massachusetts all had their cases dismissed, “leaving them in legal limbo.”
The absence of legal workplace protection is only one reason interns are dissuaded from reporting harassment. A second is lack of power. Internships are generally temporary and unpaid. Interns fall in a hierarchical gray area that leaves them particularly susceptible to exploitation and harassment.
In a USA Today commentary headlined “Dear interns, we’re sorry. We should have warned you about sexual harassment,” Jill Geisler of Loyola University Chicago wrote: “We’ve learned that workplace sexual misconduct is about abuse of power. And those with the least power are the most vulnerable.”
The Bible is full of cries to protect the vulnerable. It warns against seeking power over others. Yet Anglican Bishop Peter B. Price notes that “abuse of power is one of the greatest temptations for Christian leaders”—the consequence of which is not just scandal, “but the loss of a unique corporate authority, achieved by mutual self-giving.”